Despite Obama, no revolution expected at Cuba party congress
April 16, 2016
Havana (AFP) – Cuba’s communist party gathers Saturday for a rare party
congress less than a month after US President Barack Obama’s historic
visit, but Cubans eager for change are likely to be disappointed.
Held every five years, party congresses normally are the main political
event in a one-party system like Cuba’s that brooks no dissent.
The last one in 2011 introduced significant reforms of the island’s
moribund Soviet-style economy, cracking open the door to small-scale
private enterprise and foreign investment.
This one, the Seventh Congress, had raised expectations in Cuba and
abroad that it could set the stage for accelerated political and
economic changes following a rapprochement with longtime foe the United
But Cuban authorities have poured cold water on those hopes, signalling
that continuity will be the watchword at the four-day, close-door
session involving 1,000 delegates and another 3,500 invited participants.
In contrast with the last party congress, which was preceded by a
wide-ranging public debate, this one will be held in secret, with only
the state-controlled press allowed to cover the proceedings.
– Secret proceedings –
For the first time, the agenda of the Congress has been kept secret and
will not be debated publicly, something that has surprised even the
party’s rank and file.
The state press has said the congress will review the progress made in
the economic reforms set in motion by 84-year-old President Raul Castro,
who succeeded his ailing brother Fidel in 2006 and plans to step down in
The congress is expected to approve an economic and social development
program for the 2016-2030 period.
According to the official media, 21 percent of the 313 measures approved
in 2011 have been implemented and another 77 percent are in the process
of being carried out, while two percent have been set aside “for various
If the pace of reform has been slow, Cuban diplomacy has been very
active over the past five years, its efforts crowned by the spectacular
rapprochement with the United States and a dialogue that is now underway
with the European Union.
But Cuba’s opening to the West is also proving to be a gradual one,
reflecting Raul Castro’s caution as the island undergoes a transition to
a new generation of leaders after more than 55 years under the Castro
Many Cuba watchers are skeptical that the party congress will say much
about the country’s political direction over the next five years.
“I think it will be more of the same,” said Mauricio de Miranda, a Cuban
economist at Colombia’s Javeriana University.
“The fundamental problem is that there is a lack of consensus on the
country’s development strategy, on the changes that are necessary and on
the pace at which they should be made,” he said.
Cuban authorities appear more interested in making it clear that,
despite the economic reforms and the normalization of relations with the
United States, there will be no capitalistic restoration, not now and
not when Cuba’s revolutionary leaders leave the scene.
The party “has defined goals, but no programs or formulas to achieve
them,” said Jorge Gomez Barata, a former party ideologist, attributing
it to “the failure of the model established in the Soviet Union.”
He said there were two schools of thought in the party: those who think
“that the economic reforms would be more effective if they were
accompanied by political, constitutional, electoral and juridical reforms.”
The other group sees those kinds of changes as concessions “that could
favor the penetration of foreign ideas and even lead to a capitalistic
– Leadership changes –
The party congress is expected to elect a new Central Committee — the
current one has 116 members — and a 14-person Politburo. Raul Castro
could be re-elected first secretary for a second and final five year term.
However, the resignation in October of Interior Minister Abelardo
Colome, a Politburo member and vice president of the Council of State,
was seen as an invitation to others in the older generation to make way
for younger leaders.
A renewal of the leadership could speed up changes that are supposed to
be completed by 2018, such as a constitutional reform and a reform of
the electoral system.
“The next congress could advance in proposing to Cubans a national
project adapted to the new circumstances and world demands,” Gomez
Source: Despite Obama, no revolution expected at Cuba party congress –