January 7, 2012 - No. 1
Rio Tinto Aluminum Workers, the Region
Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean and Their Allies Across Canada Stand as One
Protests against Rio
Tinto Alcan in Alma, QC, January 2, 2012.
• Rio Tinto Aluminum Workers, the Region of
Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean and Their Allies Across Canada Stand as One
• Call for Everyone to Join Alma Workers in
Fight for Their Rights - Interview, Marc Maltais, President,
travailleurs de l'aluminium d'Alma
• Private Security Firm Used to Brutally
Assault Night Shift
• Militant Demonstration Opposes Rio Tinto's
Sale of Hydro During Lock Out and Charest Government's Secret Deal
• Electro-Motive Workers Resist U.S. Monopoly
Dictate and Schemes to Destroy Manufacturing
• CAW Questions Government Claims
• Concessions Demanded by Electro-Motive
53rd Anniversary of the Triumph of the Cuban Revolution
• Long Live the Cuban Revolution! -
Isaac Saney, Canadian Network on Cuba
• Celebrations in Cuba
• National Assembly Sums Up 2011 and Looks
Rio Tinto Aluminum Workers, the Region of
Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean and Their Allies Across Canada Stand as One
Join the battle
against the European-based
global monopoly Rio Tinto and its attempt to wreck aluminum smelting in
Quebec and lower all workers' standard of living
Canadians stand as one with the more than 800 members of
the Alma Aluminum Workers' Union Local 9490 USW, the people of Alma and
the region of Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean in their just struggle to defend
their smelters and terms of employment.
The global monopoly Rio Tinto with a gross income of
more than $60 billion in 2010 seized the aluminum smelters from Alcan
2007 and is now using its monopoly power in an anti-social crusade to
extort concessions. The global monopoly and its neoliberal allies are
using their anti-people worldview and control
of the world's aluminum smelting to justify what cannot be justified.
The workers who produce the aluminum, and the people whose
hydroelectric power makes the process extremely productive will not
accept that more and more of the wealth they produce is siphoned away
out of their communities and into
the pockets of the international financial oligarchy.
The Rio Tinto oligarchs think the people are gullible
fools who will roll over at the mere mention of "global competition"
and threats to move production to other smelters in their worldwide
empire. The people have faced these self-serving bogus arguments and
threats before and emerged victorious and they
will do it again on the basis of organization and resistance.
The workers and communities
demand equilibrium based on
their rights. The Alma workers have proposed equilibrium based on
production of 430,000 tons of aluminum per year with a minimum 780
workers. Workers demand this ratio be maintained for the good of their
members, community and economy.
To achieve equilibrium in the short term the workers have proposed that
if output increases the number of workers can remain at 780 and if
production decreases during the contract, the present ratio can be
maintained resulting in a reduction of the workforce. The workers also
believe that contracting out work must
be reduced to a minimum as this anti-worker practice directly reduces
the overall claim of workers on their production of value through lower
wages and benefits for unorganized contract workers.
For the global monopoly Rio Tinto to lock out workers
who are willing to establish a just equilibrium of mutual benefit to
workers and company owners and executives is unacceptable and a
declaration of class war against the workers, region and country.
People are rallying behind Local 9490 USW in ever growing
numbers demanding equilibrium of mutual benefit and displaying their
contempt for Rio Tinto executive managers, their flunkies and the
All out to establish equilibrium in Alma based on the
of the rights of workers and their community!
Rally behind the members of Local 9490 USW and the
Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean and their just struggle to defend
Call for Everyone to Join Alma Workers in
TML: In the week leading up
to the lock out, the members of the three units which comprise the
Syndicat des travailleurs de
l'aluminium d'Alma (Local 9490 USW,) rejected Rio Tinto's final offer.
heard that this offer was an improvement over Rio Tinto's global offer
in previous weeks but despite this, it was massively
rejected by the workers. What was the result of the vote on the final
offer and how was this offer different from the previous one?
Marc Maltais: On December 29 and 30, a
few days before the lock out, our workers rejected the employer's final
offer. The office workers' unit voted 71 per cent to reject the offer;
the potlining centre unit, 98 per cent; and the hourly wage earners'
unit 88 per cent. Overall the participation
rate in the vote was 92 per cent.
A change in the final offer was that Rio Tinto offered a
clause which would allegedly protect production workers from
subcontracting. The current contract does not say anything about
subcontracting and the production workers. Our main issue regarding
subcontracting at the moment is in maintenance. There
is a clause in the contract on maintenance and subcontracting but it is
so full of holes that there is no real protection for our jobs. The
result has been that every year the working hours that have been
granted to outside firms have steadily increased.
So the employer offered a clause that would allegedly
protect the production jobs from subcontracting but it comes with a
sentence that says that there is going to be more and more
subcontracting and that the future of the smelter is with
subcontracting. So we have asked the employer what is the value of such
protection if we sign something which says that there is going to be
more and more subcontracting? The answer is very clear. If we put in
the contract a clause that does not really protect us, we have just
accepted the employers' conditions regarding subcontracting. This is
one of the main issues in these negotiations
because it has an impact on so many things, including labour mobility
at the plant and the future of the pension plan. To accept this will
weaken the union because through this Rio Tinto is trying to reduce the
number of unionized workers, limiting them to those doing "core"
production jobs, and then they will go
after those too.
We just have to look at what is happening with the lock
out. It is already very difficult to wage an effective battle even
though most of the workforce is unionized. Rio Tinto is using 200
subcontractors and managers to run the plant, without talking about the
scabs. Imagine what would happen if they had 400
people with them. Many of these so-called managers are retirees that
they hired and nominated as managers in the last few months. These are
not managers who have been at the plant for a long time and know it
well but managers who have been put there to prepare for the dispute.
The equipment in Alma is the
most modern there is. Rio Tinto went to Arvida to hire retired
supervisors. Some of them have never even seen an overhead crane like
the one we have in Alma and these are the people who are going to
operate the plant! I guess that Rio Tinto has the real managers, those
who know the conditions at the plant, doing
the critical operations, but what are they going to tell the other
guys? "Trust us buddy!" That is supposed to be safe?
TML: The union says that Rio Tinto is
not negotiating with them but provoking them. Can you tell us more
MM: All these accusations they are
throwing at us of vandalism and intimidation are lies and provocations.
Rio Tinto is following the theory that if you repeat a lie often enough
it will become the truth. The union has always opposed vandalism, the
breaking of equipment and intimidation.
When the company accuses us of vandalizing the equipment it knows very
well that equipment breaks down all the
time. It happened before the negotiations, it will happen during the
negotiations and it will happen after they are over. Why else do they
have maintenance workers at the plant?
In fact, the company is not doing any investigation into the incidents
it is making a fuss about. This is just propaganda. In our society,
where the unions are often portrayed as goons, it is very easy for
these people to slander the workers.
We seriously suspect that Rio Tinto is bringing in
scabs. We have made a request to the Ministry of Labour to send
inspectors to check the situation inside. Rio Tinto is bringing people
in by helicopter. We keep seeing people walking in the woods in the
dark with flash lights and entering the premises on skidoos.
I myself caught one, a fake security guard who was using a skidoo to
patrol the area. If Rio Tinto has nothing to hide, why these methods?
TML: How is it going in terms of the
support of the people?
MM: You may remember that some
Presidents of Boards of Trade went public against us. Well, this is not
preventing small businesses from bringing us coffee and muffins, gift
certificates, lumber for our fire and coming to the line to discuss
with us and offer support. Our Facebook page
now has 800 members and we are gaining a hundred new ones every day.
All kinds of people support us. They are aware that we are asking close
to nothing for ourselves. What we want is that the people enjoy the
same working conditions as those we have. There are Rio Tinto retirees
who join us on the picket
lines. Our workers are mobilized more than they have ever been. They
support their union and are determined to win this fight. We are
picketing 24/7 even if we are under a temporary interlocutory
injunction until January 10 that orders us to stay at least 500 feet
from the property and to limit the number of picketers
to 20 people.
TML: What do you want to say in
MM: Our latest dispute at the plant goes
back to 1979 when there was also a lock out. It is not true that we are
tougher to deal with here in Alma. If what we are being offered makes
sense then we can look at it and make a deal but we want a deal we can
live with. The other day one of
the workers asked me when people like the Rio Tinto executives will
decide that they should stop attacking us. I said that the day you have
to put $100 in a box before you do your shift -- the day you pay in
order to work -- they will ask for $120. There is no limit to what they
will ask. The people are aware that
the Alma union is fighting this transformation of the economy in which
they are pushing us all down and down again and this is why we are
calling on everybody to join us.
Private Security Firm Used to
Brutally Assault Night
Alma, QC, December 31,
At 12:45 am on Saturday, December 31, some 150 guards
from a private security firm entered the plant, threw garbage bags at
the workers which contained their personal belongings and ordered them
to get out of the plant. This took place fifteen minutes after
negotiations ended between the company and the union in the presence of
a government negotiator with the agreement that they would continue the
The workers had to leave with their skin
contaminated and still wearing their contaminated work clothes. This
happened under heavy police surveillance. Workers denounced the brutal
assault and immediately mounted picket lines in front of the plant.
The assault seems to have been a very calculated move to
brutalize the workers. For instance, after the assault, the company
carried on business as usual and paid the workers for their shift. In
other words, there is no sense for the union to grieve this blatant
violation of the workers' rights because the workers have already
received the redress to which they would be entitled under the
arbitration process -- their pay.
TML denounces this assault on the workers,
carried out under the supervision of the police while the media and
others subsequently went out of their way to suggest it is the workers
the trouble-makers. In fact they blamed the workers for the routine
equipment breakdowns which occur all the time
as a pretext for the assault.
Clearly, the company not only acts with impunity to
create a so-called new normal at the plant where workers are forced to
submit to unfettered management "rights," but it seems to have adopted
the use of violence on a planned basis to achieve its aims.
Militant Demonstration Opposes
Rio Tinrto's Sale of
Hydro During Lock Out and
Charest Government's Secret Deal
On January 4, more than 600 workers demonstrated in
front of the Île Maligne Dam and the office of Énergie
Électrique to oppose the sale of unused hydro from Rio Tinto to
Hydro-Quebec during the lock out. Énergie Électrique is
the division of Rio Tinto that deals with its dams and the distribution
hydro. The demonstrators demanded that the Quebec government stop
Hydro-Quebec from buying the unused energy that has resulted from Rio
Tinto cutting its aluminum production by two-thirds during the lock
With its six dams in Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean -- three on the Peribonka
River and three on the Saguenay
River -- Rio Tinto has the capacity to produce more than 2,000
megawatts yearly which represents over 90 per cent of the total hydro
it needs to produce aluminum in Quebec. The Rio Tinto Alcan network is
connected to Hydro-Quebec. An agreement between the two regulates the
exchange of energy between them,
depending on the season and the respective needs of each organization.
According to the workers, Rio Tinto has about 500 MW of unused hydro
because of the lock out. Rio Tinto's media representative, Claudine
Gagnon, has said that all of it is going to be diverted to Hydro-Quebec.
The Rio Tinto workers firmly oppose the sale of this
energy during the lock out as it is a way to weaken the union in its
fight against the company. They denounced the comments made by a
spokesperson for the Minister of Natural Resources that the exchange of
energy between Rio Tinto and Hydro-Quebec
is a purely private matter and that for the government to ask
Hydro-Québec not to buy the unused energy during the lock out
would be an interference in this private matter. A Hydro-Quebec
spokesperson said that the state utility will continue to abide by its
agreement with Rio Tinto and that the agreement itself
is secret and must remain so.
Marc Maltais, president of the Syndicat des travailleurs
de l'aluminium d'Alma, which represents the locked out workers, firmly
disagreed. "In agreeing to let Rio Tinto sell its energy surplus at
full price to Hydro-Quebec, the government makes itself an actor in
this labour dispute and contributes to making it
last longer. Traditionally, the relative strength of both parties
during a labour dispute rests to a large extent on the employer's
affected and by workers not receiving their wages, which
brings both parties to realize that they cannot win everything they
want and must come to an agreement."
Many other workers and trade union leaders
took part in
the action. On behalf of the Syndicat des employés
d'énergie électrique, President Pierre Simard denounced
the sale of the unused hydro to Hydro-Quebec during the conflict
because Rio Tinto is making money out of the labour dispute. Simard
to build support for the struggle of the Rio Tinto workers. Yvan
Tremblay, the President of the Syndicat des employés de
métier d'hydro-Québec in Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean, recalled
the regional referendum of November 2005 in which 92 per cent of the
people of the region voted in favour of the natural resources
being managed by the region and private energy produced for industrial
purposes being used exclusively for the industrial development of the
region. The representative of the Canadian Auto Workers for
Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean, Denis Lepage said, "If the company thinks that
imposing its lock out is going to be a piece
of cake, it is sadly mistaken. There is no way they are going to beat
up these workers without taking us all on." The NDP MP for
Jonquière-Alma, himself the past President of the Syndicat
national des employés de l'aluminium d'Arvida, said this looks
like it may become a huge crisis and called on the people to
support the workers.
On behalf of the locked out workers, president Marc
Maltais said how proud he is of the success of the demonstration, which
had to be held away from the plant because an injunction forbids any
demonstration or picketing within 150 metres of it.
"We are abiding by the injunction," he said, "but it is
crucial that we make our opinion heard. The right to demonstrate still
exists and we have demonstrated peacefully. The support we have
received is important and is going to become critical in our
fight against Rio Tinto."
Electro-Motive Workers Resist U.S. Monopoly Dictate and
Schemes to Destroy Manufacturing
On December 31, 465 members of CAW Local 27 were locked
out of the Electro-Motive Diesel (EMD) plant in London, Ontario after
workers made it clear that they would not accept the imposition of the
unilateral "final offer" by the company. EMD is owned by the U.S.
monopoly Caterpillar. The final offer presented by
the company would, amongst other things, cut wages in half, eliminate a
eliminate cost-of-living adjustments and introduce worker co-pays for
health care costs -- employees are to pay 25 per cent of the premiums
for their health care coverage -- while reducing the benefits of that
coverage. The union and the company
had agreed to a seven-month contract extension which expired on
December 31. The union had hoped the company would negotiate and modify
its final offer, however it refused to budge. On December 30, workers
voted 97.8 per cent in favour of strike action with approximately 90
per cent of the membership voting.
The CAW advises that
Caterpillar's intention may be to
use the lock out to move production to the United States or other
facilities it has established in Mexico and Brazil.
Since the lock out began, the workers have been trying
ensure that machines are not removed and that scabs are not brought in
to keep the plant running. In a statement issued on behalf of
Caterpillar, company spokesperson Anne Marie Quinn said it has not used
"replacement production workers." However,
she did state that it is using scabs under the guise of a contract it
has to provide power to General Dynamics Land Systems, a neighbouring
manufacturing facility. "[Electro-Motive Canada (EMC)] has retained
workers to keep the powerhouse in operation, which must continue in
order to maintain the EMC facility,
as well as the neighbouring GDLS Canada facility to which EMC is
contractually obliged to provide power." The General Dynamics Land
Systems facility is involved in war production, assembling military
vehicles for the U.S., Canadian and other NATO member and partner
Right from the beginning of
the lock out, the workers
have been gaining support from their community, other workers and local
city councillors and members of Parliament. London City Councillor Bud
Polhill visited the workers at the gates and stated: "I think we need
to send a message to these people the City
of London supports them. When someone offers you less than half of what
you were making, that is not an offer, it is an insult. It's
ridiculous," he said. Councilor Stephen Orser also showed his support
for the workers and opposed the silence of the Harper government. "It
is a slap in the face of the federal government.
The higher levels of government cannot be so contractually stupid in
these deals," he said. "The federal MPs and provincial MPPs should try
to get everyone back to the table to keep the plant working. We need
these jobs here in London," he said. "If we are going to be in a major
fight with this employer we need
the support of the community and politicians," he added.
The Ontario Federation of Labour has called a day of
action on January 21 and is calling on all labour councils to hire
buses to take workers from their cities to London on that day.
Caterpillar and EMD
Caterpillar is the world's largest manufacturer of
construction and mining equipment, diesel and natural gas engines and
industrial gas turbines. Their engines and machines are widely used in
construction, agriculture and military applications. In 2010, EMD was
bought by Progress Rail, a subsidiary
of Caterpillar. Progress Rail is one of the largest integrated and
diversified suppliers of railroad and transit system products and
services in North America. Their facilities include locomotive
production, upgrade and repair, railcar remanufacturing, rail welding,
rail repair and replacement, signal design and installation,
maintenance of way equipment, parts reclamation and recycling. The
company operates over 110 facilities in the United States, 28 in
Mexico, four in Canada and one in South America.
According to its website, EMD is "one of two U.S.
original equipment manufacturers of diesel-electric locomotives.
Headquartered in LaGrange, Illinois, with additional facilities in
London, Ontario, EMD designs, manufactures and sells diesel-electric
locomotives for all commercial railroad applications." The workers say
the company will need about 450 locomotives this year. With enough
skilled labour, the London plant has the capability to build about 1.8
locomotives a day and prior to the lockout was producing about one a
day. It is not clear where these locomotives will be produced if the
company maintains the lockout. The Muncie, Indiana plant is an old
building with old machinery which can only produce a few locomotives a
month. EMD's main competition is General Electric which presently has
its own customers.
Despite the London plant being state of the art and very productive,
and GE having its own customers, the workers are concerned the company
may try to move some of the machinery out of this plant to Muncie,
Indiana or some other place because of whatever money-making scheme has
been given a guarantee.
The EMD workers do very skilled work which involves the original
fabrication of parts and detailed knowledge and experience. It is not
assembly line work where prefabricated parts are assembled.
Speaking of the main competition, a GE plant in the U.S. just settled a
new contract with its workers with wages of $30-plus an hour.
Another Big Score and
Destruction of Canadian
U.S. vulture capitalists Greenbriar Equity Group and
Berkshire Partners purchased EMD from General Motors in 2005 when it
sold off certain non-auto related aspects of its monopoly. In 2008,
Prime Minister Harper made a budget announcement at EMD's London plant
about measures for companies
which would facilitate the purchase of new industrial assets such as
the locomotives EMD produced. One measure increased the amount of the
cost of new assets companies could deduct from owed taxes. At the time
the Harper government estimated that this measure would shift
approximately $1 billion from government
revenue to companies who took advantage of the tax cut. In another
measure seemingly targeted specifically to serve EMD, the Harper
government increased the proportion of the cost of new locomotive
purchases a purchaser could deduct from their taxes from 15 per cent to
30 per cent. The Harper government
predicted at that time that this measure alone would lead to a
reduction of $5 million in government revenues transferred to the
company selling (EMD) and the company buying the new locomotives.
Shortly after, CN Rail purchased 40 new locomotives from EMD, no doubt
resulting in a big profit. The investment
firms controlling EMD then sold the company to Caterpillar in August
2010 for $820 million, reportedly three times what they paid.
One month after its purchase of EMD, Caterpillar
announced plans to open a plant to build EMD locomotives in Muncie,
Indiana with millions in state incentives. In November 2010,
Caterpillar awarded a major contract to a third-party manufacturer to
start building EMD locomotives in Sahagun, Mexico. Finally,
on July 25, 2011 Caterpillar announced plans to build a new EMD
locomotive plant in Minas Gerais, Brazil.
It is now feared that Caterpillar's long-term interest
in Electro-Motive centres on plans to acquire new technology it
possesses and then move production to the U.S. to fulfil "Buy America"
regulations for the passenger locomotive market.
On December 21, CAW President Ken Lewenza wrote to
Harper indicating CAW's fears about Caterpillar's intentions and
requesting that the commitments and terms of the purchase of EMD by
Caterpillar be disclosed, the approval for the sale be reviewed, and
the Minister of Industry determine Caterpillar's
real intentions for the London plant and intervene to safeguard the
future of the operations. On January 4, the Canadian Union of Public
Employees also wrote to Harper calling for the terms and incentives of
the approval of Caterpillar's purchase of EMD under the Investment
Canada Act (ICA) to be
According to reports, the Harper government says the
sale was not subject to review under the ICA, because the asset value
didn't meet the required threshold. In an e-mail to the media, Harper
spokesman Carl Vallée attempted to present the Harper government
as neutral, despite its repeated interventions to
defend monopoly right: "This is a dispute between a private company and
the union and we don't comment on the actions of private companies."
Addressing the tax measures which were announced at EMD's facility in
2008 Vallée wrote: "The Prime Minister's  announcement
related to the government's tax
policies for all companies." "A low tax environment is the best way to
ensure job creators come to Canada and stay in Canada, as proven by the
nearly 600,000 jobs created in Canada since July 2009." A spokesperson
for Labour Minister Lisa Raitt wrote that the dispute "is in fact a
matter of provincial jurisdiction."
Elgin-Middlesex-London Conservative MP Joe Preston elaborated on the
Harper government's position "At this moment, I kind of wish we'd all
just step back a little and let the two parties do their negotiation,"
he said. "That's who's going to have to come up with a contract at the
end of the day and it sometimes
is unhelpful for outside parties to be offering suggestions and
solutions when the real negotiation needs to take place between the
management at Electro-Motive and the CAW."
CAW Questions Government Claims
A Harper government
spokesperson said that when
Electro-Motive purchased the plant in London, Ontario, the assets were
below the $299 million Investment Canada Act threshold for
CAW President Ken Lewenza responded, "There is no
oversight and no transparency in this whole process. Caterpillar
declared a gain of $1.3 billion in assets on its books following the
takeover of EMC. The federal government now says that the takeover did
not meet the threshold of $299 million for a full
review, or to seek legally-binding commitments to Canada."
"In a $1.3 billion deal, how can the Harper government
seriously believe that not even a quarter of those assets are in
Canada?" Lewenza asked.
"London is the largest
manufacturing plant in the
company, and at the time of the takeover had nearly half the company's
employees. The Harper government gave this sale a rubber stamp paving
the way for this disaster," Lewenza said. "This is a disservice to
Lewenza said the Harper government should disclose the
value of assets in London declared by Caterpillar and is asking what
steps the federal government took to ensure the validity of the
information provided by Caterpillar.
"Will the federal government use its powers under the Investment
Act to review this obviously faulty decision to head off
this job-destroying disaster?" Lewenza asked.
A CAW news release says Lewenza also criticized a
statement by the federal government spokesperson in the media that the
federal government won't get involved in the lock-out of
Electro-Motive workers because it is a dispute between a private
company and the union.
"The federal government certainly had no problem
interfering in bargaining between Air Canada and the CAW last year,"
Concessions Demanded by Electro-Motive
The employer has demanded the following concessions:
- $21 million reduction in wages and time off
- $1.5 million per year in benefit cost reductions;
- $6.9 million cut out of pension and retiree benefit
- $10 million out of the supplementary unemployment
benefits (SUB) fund.
The savings listed above would be gained by concessions
the employer has tabled in the following areas:
- A wage reduction for all classifications. The deepest
cut is $18.50 per hour for about 50 per cent of the workforce;
- Elimination of the defined benefit pension plan;
- Elimination of retiree benefits;
- Substantial reduction in shift premiums;
- Elimination of the cost of living allowance;
- Reduction in overtime compensation;
- Elimination of four holidays annually;
- Elimination of between 64 and 120 hours of vacation
- Elimination of survivor income benefits, income
maintenance plan, SUB plan, SWW protection, maternity top up, retiree
medical, retiree life insurance etc.;
- 25 per cent co-pay for the cost of premiums of
medical, drug, dental, vision, hearing aid coverage;
- 25 per cent co-pay at time of purchase of the cost of
- Major reduction in dental and other benefit coverage
- Elimination of protection of skilled trades work.
53rd Anniversary of the Triumph of the
Long Live the Cuban Revolution!
On the 53rd anniversary of
the triumph of the Cuban
Revolution, the Canadian Network on Cuba, on behalf of the Canada-Cuba
friendship and solidarity movement, extends our warmest and most
heartfelt greetings and congratulations to the Cuban people. In the 53
years that have flashed by since that glorious
day of January 1st, 1959, the Cuban people have shown what is possible
to achieve when one defends genuine independence and
self-determination. As Cuba continues on the path of social justice,
human dignity and international solidarity, the Cuban Revolution
continues to be an inspiration to humanity. The example
of Cuba assumes even greater significance as the second decade of the
21st century unfolds, fraught with grave dangers that threaten the
well-being of the peoples of the world. In the midst of these profound
challenges, Cuba refutes those who argue that relations among the
world's nations and peoples are -- and can
only be -- determined by self-interest, the pursuit of power and
Cuba demonstrates that it is possible to build relations based on
genuine solidarity and social love; it is a living example of the
alternatives that permit people to realize their deepest aspirations,
and that another better world is possible.
As the Cuban people confidently march forward, the CNC
reaffirms its commitment to strengthen and deepen the ties of
friendship and solidarity between Canada and Cuba and resolves to do
the utmost to obtain justice for the Five Cuban Heroes; who so
valiantly defended their country from terrorist attacks
launched from the United States. In the spirits of solidarity and
friendship, we join the global chorus, declaring:
Celebrations in Cuba
Mass rally in in
Guantanamo province celebrates
December 27, 2011.
This year, Cuba ushered in the 54th year of the
Revolution with celebrations held across the island in late
December and early January.
In Havana, a 21-gun salute was fired to mark the day
when the Cuban revolutionaries led by Fidel Castro overthrew the regime
of U.S.-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista, initiating the process of
building socialism. On January 2, in the eastern city of Santiago de
Cuba a group of children and youth retraced the
route known as the Caravan of Victory taken by Fidel Castro and the
rebel army after the triumph of January 1, 1959. Many cultural and
artistic activities were held nationwide to celebrate the occasion and
the new year 2012.
reenactment of the Caravan of Victory is welcomed in Cienfuegos
province, January 6, 2012.
This occasion was also marked by political rallies in
the regions to take stock of the year's accomplishments in the context
of the successful 6th Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba held this
past April 16-19. The
Congress oversaw the adoption of an updated economic model and policies
aimed at overcoming the country's difficulties
and continuing its socialist path. The people's sights are set on
what is to be achieved in the new year.
The Cuban people and their leaders received many
greetings from foreign
governments, heads of state, friendship organizations, parties and
personalities on the occasion, which highlighted the significance
of the Revolution for all the peoples of the region and the oppressed
peoples of the world.
"Without the Cuban Revolution the processes for the
union of Latin American peoples would probably not exist today," said
President Daniel Ortega in a message on the anniversary.
The statement from the Government of Venezuela said in
part, "The triumphal entry of Fidel into Santiago de Cuba on January 1,
1959 sealed the beginning of the universal action that has made the
Cuban people an example of dignity to the world, a source of
inspiration for oppressed people and a inexhaustible
source of unconditional international solidarity."
Rebel Army led by Fidel Castro was enthusiastically welcomed in Havana
on January 8, 1959.
National Assembly Sums Up 2011 and
Looks Toward 2012
On December 23, the deputies of Cuba's National Assembly
of People's Power held the debates of the 8th Ordinary Session of the
7th Legislature, the highest organ of government in Cuba.
On the agenda for the Cuban Parliament was the adoption
of the country's Economic Plan and Budget for 2012. Legislators
evaluated the ongoing implementation of the agreements of the Sixth
Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba, held last April, in order to
strengthen the Revolution at this crucial moment
in history, especially the general crisis of capitalism. To that end,
prior to the 8th ordinary session, the 12 permanent commissions of the
National Assembly of People's Power held their debates from December 20
to 21 to review the effectiveness of the new economic measures
implemented last year, as well as other
issues of importance to the nation. The two sessions of the permanent
commissions and their approximately 400 legislators preceded reports
from institutions on December 22 and 23. These included representatives
of the People's Supreme Court and the Attorney General of the Republic
of Cuba presenting the report
on the results of the judicial system in 2011 and the projections for
2012. The National Sports, Physical Education and Recreation Institute,
the permanent standing commissions of the Parliament of International
Relations, as well as Industry and Construction also submitted their
reports to the plenary.
In his speech to close the 8th Ordinary Session,
President Raúl Castro affirmed that, "We will not neglect unity
among the majority of Cubans around the Party and the Revolution. This
unity has allowed us to come this far and to continue moving forward in
the construction of our socialism."
President Castro summed up the reports on the state of
Cuba's economic affairs, noting that the expected figure of a 3 per
cent growth in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) fell short at 2.7 per
cent mainly due to lack of
execution of the investment plan and failure to meet some goals for
and livestock production as well as some from
the food and construction industries.
He also noted that a gradual recovery of sugar
production began in 2011; that the number of foreign visitors went
beyond record figures; that the domestic monetary balance was
maintained; and that the dynamics of the medium wage-productivity ratio
He explained that advances continued to be made in the
reestablishment of the national economy's international credibility, by
way of the strict fulfilment of the financial obligations resulting
from the renegotiation of debts with the main creditors, a policy that
will continue being strengthened in the future.
The president pointed out that in 2012, the GDP should
increase by 3.4 percent and that in spite of the fact that national
production of food (including rice and beans) should increase and,
consequently, imports will be reduced, the latter will amount to a
little more than $1.7 billion due to price increases.
He also informed that a 3.8 percent deficit of the GDP
has been foreseen, but that free services for the population in health,
education, culture and sports will be guaranteed by way of rationality,
as well as those of social security and food subsidies, and help to
with insufficient solvency to purchase construction materials, among
Directly related to the well-being of Cuba's economy,
President Castro also spoke out strongly on the issue of corruption and
the work to eliminate it, saying there is an "imperious need for all of
us in leadership roles at different levels, from the grass roots to the
highest positions in the country, to take a firm
line in the face of indiscipline and lack of control in relation to
receipts and payments, which constitute one of the principal causes and
requisite conditions for crime. I am convinced that corruption is
currently one of the principal enemies of the Revolution, far more
damaging than the subversive and interventionist
activities of the United States government and its allies within and
outside of the country.
"The Comptroller General of the Republic, the Attorney
General and the specialized units of the Ministry of the Interior have
instructions to combat this scourge with all the severity that our laws
permit, as, in its moment, incipient drug trafficking was successfully
confronted beginning in January of 2003. [...]
"I believe this is an opportune moment to clarify that
this is not yet another campaign, as has certainly been the case in the
past when, with the passing of time, actions to reestablish order were
discontinued and routine and superficiality once again took over,
allowing those who were waiting for everything to
settle down, and return to normal, to continue prospering at the
expense of our people's heritage.
"[...] we are determined to ensure that instructions set
out by the government and agreements of the Party Congress are
fulfilled. I will say the same in relation to those corrupt
bureaucrats, with posts obtained through simulation and opportunism,
who are utilizing the positions that they still occupy to accumulate
fortunes, betting on the possible defeat of the Revolution."
Regarding Cuba's migration policy, President Castro
stated, "On August 1 in this Parliament, I publicly addressed the issue
and stated that we were working toward implementing an updated
migration policy and advancing in reformulating and drafting the
regulations, in line with present and foreseeable future
conditions. Today, I guarantee each and every one of the proposals made
on that occasion, while reaffirming our unchanged will to gradually
introduce the changes required in relation to this complex issue, while
continuing to comprehensively assess the positive and negative effects
of each step we take."
In the sphere of foreign affairs, President Castro noted
that "2011 has been a year of upheaval for the world, constantly more
dangerous and reactionary tendencies are currently revealing
themselves, on a par with increasing expressions of resistance and
popular protest against neoliberal capitalism. The United
Nations mechanisms, created to preserve peace and security, have been
manipulated in order to impose on the planet the dictatorship of the
United States and NATO, which are assuming 'regime change' as a model,
violating principles of international law, and using financial-media
emporiums to stir up hatred and
He noted the widespread protests against social
inequality in the developed countries and called on the governments of
those countries to listen to the peoples' demands.
He also addressed the founding of the Community of Latin
American and Caribbean States (CELAC) on December 2, highlighting that
received the honour of being unanimously elected to preside over CELAC
in 2013 and host its third summit at the end of that year.
Concluding his speech, the president informed that "in a
humanitarian and sovereign gesture, the Council of State has agreed to
pardon more than 2,900 prisoners."
"These include women, sick individuals, those over 60
years of age and also young people who have raised their educational
levels and possibilities of social reintegration." He noted that those
convicted of crimes of espionage, terrorism, murder, homicide, drug
trafficking, pederasty with violence, rape and corruption
of minors and robbery with violence were not included amongst those to
"The pardon will become effective in the next few days,
as another demonstration of the generosity and strength of the
Revolution," he added.
"At the same time, we have stated our willingness to
grant the early release of 86 foreign citizens from 25 countries,
including 13 women convicted in the courts for crimes committed in
Cuba, on the prior condition that the governments of their countries of
origin accept their repatriation."
Reports on the State of
Cuba's Economy and Justice
The draft 2012 Budget Law was presented to the deputies
for their consideration by Lina Pedraza, Minister of Finance and
Prices. She reported that the budget deficit for 2011 is expected to
amount to 3.8 per cent of the GDP, close to
the figure projected for 2012.
According to Pedraza, the draft budget reflects the
Economic and Social Policy Guidelines approved by the 6th Party
Congress, especially those related to macroeconomic factors, and that
greater coherence between the annual economic plan's objectives and the
budget has been achieved at all levels, as called
for in the guidelines.
She reported as well that the tax system is advancing
gradually toward becoming a re-distributor of wealth and that work will
continue to develop broad consciousness about taxes and the
population's responsibility to contribute, while the strengthening of
accounting mechanisms is projected, to assure the fulfilment
of tax obligations.
The National Assembly approved the Economic Plan and the
Budget Law for 2012, which plans GDP growth of 3.4 percent. More than
half of the budgeted expenditures are
for education, health, culture and sport, in line with the priority
given by the Cuban government in the social
sphere. More than 800 million pesos are allocated for subsides to
low-income people as part of the 2012 Budget Law. Minister Pedraza
emphasized that these measures will ensure the well-being of individual
Cubans and the country as a whole. The example was given that these
funds will make it possible to offer
construction materials at subsidized prices as a way to contribute to
the recovery and increase the country's housing funds.
Marino Murillo, member of the Party's Political Bureau
and Vice President of the Council of Ministers reported on the progress
made in implementing the Economic and Social Policy Guidelines of the
Party and the Revolution passed at the 6th Congress. He emphasized the
priority of developing new
forms of non-state management given
the importance these are gaining in the country's economy.
As for changes in the macroeconomic sphere, he
emphasized measures approved to address as quickly as possible the
settling of accounts payable and receivable in the country.
Discussing developments within different sectors of the
economy, the Vice President summarized efforts underway in agriculture
and livestock, given this sector's importance within the national
Another important aspect of renewing the Revolution are
Cuba's efforts "to confront corruption and social indiscipline," Granma
International writes. This work has been undertaken by judicial
bodies in the country since 2007. Reports on this work by the People's
Supreme Court and the Attorney
General of the Republic's Office were presented to deputies during a
plenary session by Rubén Remigio Ferro, President of the
People's Supreme Court, and Darío Delgado Cura, Attorney General
of the Republic.
Ferro emphasized the progress made in fundamental
reflecting the quality of work done within the judicial system, such as
prompt processing, respect for the rights of individuals, adoption of
correct decisions and effective enforcement of sanctions. In this
context, he reported that 87 per cent of the cases brought
before the courts were resolved and 91 per cent of the sentences served.
The President of the Supreme Court focused on the
effective implementation of penal policy established by law and the
country's leadership. In this light, he explained, the courts have
acted with the necessary severity and rigor in dealing with those
responsible for acts harmful to national security or economic,
political and social stability, as well as the tranquility of the
country. A differentiated approach is taken in cases of a less serious
Darío Delgado concurred and described the more
severe sanctions requested by prosecutors for those convicted of
corruption, fraud, drugs, procurement, illegal slaughter or sale of
livestock, theft of equipment for state programs in the energy,
telecommunications and railroad sectors, as well as aggravated
At the same time, sentences which do not involve imprisonment, fines
and administrative sanctions are reserved for those who committed minor
offenses, he added.
"This procedure clearly favours the reintegration of
citizens into society," Ferro stated, and has positively impacted work
undertaken by the Attorney General's Office implementing policies
designed for young offenders, especially policies promoting academic
instruction and technical training.
Given the social repercussions of family legal issues,
Delgado emphasized the work of state attorneys' offices dealing with
such cases, which focuses on the protection of minors who have
behaviour problems or are involved in criminal activity.
The Assembly's declaration approving the reports from
the two institutions was read by José Luis Toledo Santander,
President of the Constitutional and Judicial Affairs Commission, who
recommended that the People's Supreme Court and the Attorney General
develop a comprehensive analysis of the penal system,
looking to incorporate strategies to confront crime concentrating the
full force of the state on the most serious crimes, while at the same
time, creating more expeditious and less expensive ways of dealing with
January 7, 2012 • Return to Index • Write to: