By: Ismael Francisco and Rosa Miriam Elizalde / Source: Resumen Latinoamericano / The Dawn News / April 16, 2016.
Representatives and guests from all over the country are analysing the course of the Cuban society beginning today and until Tuesday April 19 in the VII Congress of the Cuban Communist Party (CCP), headed by its First Secretary, Raúl Castro Ruz.
“The worst thing that a revolutionary can do, whether he is a Communist or not, is standing still in the face of problems. We don’t have that right and much less in these days”, said Raúl, who was in charge of presenting the Main Report of this Congress, which is the highest level of organization of all Cuban communists.
He said that, by the end of 2015, the number of members of the CCP was of 671,344, and acknowledged that the militancy has decreased, influenced by the country’s demographic trends, the effect of a restrictive growth policy of the organization since 2004 and their own insufficiency in the work of recruitment and retention of militants, although in recent years they have managed to curb this trend.
It’s the first time that in a Party Congress there is a presentation about the Cuban economic and social model of socialist development. The document that is being presented here has had 8 versions and has been submitted to numerous debates, said the First Secretary, who acknowledged that “the documents that we will discuss this days are comprehensive, have great complexity and will mark the way of the Cuban revolutionary process, of the party and the society in the construction of a prosper and sustainable socialism, which are closely linked together, and we should not see it with a pragmatic vision”. They will be submitted to a periodical evaluation, he said.
The conceptualization of this Cuban Economic and Social Model is based on Martí’s thoughts, marxism-leninism, Fidel’s ideas and the revolutionary practice throughout all these years.
Raúl affirmed that “the neoliberal formulas that propose the privatization of state patrimony and services such as health and education will never be implemented in Cuba”. He also reminded that the concentration of property will not be allowed and that everything will be regulated by law.
Castro requested the audience to “keep their feet firmly planted on the ground”. The most eloquent example of the complexity in the process of implementation lies in the monetary and exchange rate duality, an issue on which they have not stopped working and to which a solution “will not be postponed indefinitely”. He acknowledged that, even if a single currency were established, this would not be a magic solution, but it would be strategic to advance and provide the conditions required to overcome the harmful effects of egalitarianism.
He admitted that in the implementation of these guidelines there have been insufficiencies and deficiencies in organisms and entities, including the Permanent Commision that controls them, which have caused delays in the application of some measures, limited proposals and lack of integrity, primarily in the assessments of risks and cost/benefit.
The document focused on 4 essential areas: Economic, Party, Social and Constitutional.
In the area of economy, he highlighted the issues of population aging, the blockade imposed by the US and the world economic crisis. To counteract this issues, the policy for foreign investment is strategic and necessary for the development of the country, he said. He pointed out that the most vital and complex task is to bring order to the monetary system of the country.
Regarding the Cuban Communist Party, Castro mentioned that in 2018 his second mandate as President will conclude and, since that is the limit of re-elections according to the rules, he will be replaced by another elected leader.
He stressed that national unity must be preserved and strengthened in this new stage, which has different characteristics. “If they manage to divide us, it would be the beginning of the end of the Revolution, Socialism and Independence”, he said.
On social issues, Raúl Castro remarked that the right to health and education are essential human rights, as well as men and women earning the same salary for the same work. Speaking of human rights, which is an area that detractors of the Cuban model use to criticize it, he reminded that Cuba has signed 44 international agreements on that matter, while the US, its main detractor, has only signed 18. The northern country tries to stimulate values of consumption among the Cuban people and depict the nation as a society without future, and they stimulate illegal and disorganized emigration of youth. Action against this strategy of subversion is needed.
Regarding the Constitution, he said it needs to be reformed to adapt to the new realities of the country. The proposal for the reform will be approved by the National Assembly, submitted to consultation with the people and voted upon in a referendum.
The new Constitution will maintain the irrevocable Socialist nature of Cuba and the leading role of society in the Cuban Communist Party.
Prospective leaders of Cuba should retire at 70, says Raúl Castro
Current president, 84, suggests older party members should spend time with family to allow the young to rise through the ranks
Any future leaders of Cuba’s Communist party should retire at 70 to make way for younger blood, President Raúl Castro has said, suggesting older members hoping for promotion to the top table could play with their grandchildren instead.
Cuba’s leadership includes several septuagenarian or octogenarian veterans of Fidel Castro’s 1959 revolution. There is a growing urgency for them to make succession plans to keep the party alive once they are gone.
Raúl Castro is 84 and, after his planned retirement from government in two years, the country is likely to be led by somebody with a different surname for the first time since his brother Fidel – who turns 90 in August – overthrew a pro-US dictatorship nearly 60 years ago.
Raúl’s comments during a two-hour speech at the inauguration of the Communist party’s twice-per-decade congress were met with silence.
Before the congress, the party leadership faced some discontent among younger members critical of the slow delivery on promised economic reforms in the past five years and a lack of transparency.
Fidel Castro retired in 2008 after a serious illness and his younger brother took over, introducing a limit of two five-year terms for leaders. That limit has yet to be tested.
The proposed rules would affect new entrants into the leadership, but Raúl added that there would be no sudden change. The limits would be introduced in time for the next party congress in 2021. He said there should then be a constitutional amendment and a referendum to codify this and other reforms.
The president proposed that the age limit for entering the party’s central committee be fixed at 60, with a maximum of 70 for those wishing to to perform duties in the party leadership. He said the new rules would have a knock-on effect of bringing younger leaders up through the ranks more quickly.
“Somebody who is 65 or 70 is useful for important activities, but not the activities of an important leader,” he said.
The party is due to vote for a new leadership on Monday, and is expected to re-elect Castro and his number two, José Ramón Machado Ventura, who is 85. It is thought the new rules will not apply to them because they are already within the leadership.
The president said the same age rules should be applied to other state bodies and the government. He reiterated that he would step down from his role in 2018.