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MENAFN – AFP – 17/04/2016

(MENAFN – AFP) Cuban President Raul Castro rejected rapid privatization
and vowed never to pursue “shock therapy,” setting the tone for a
Communist Party congress reviewing progress in revamping the island’s
moribund Soviet-style economy.
“Cuba will never permit the application of so-called shock therapies,
which are frequently applied to the detriment of society’s most humble
classes,” he said in a lengthy speech opening the congress, which takes
place every five years and will stretch on for several days.

The main political event in a one-party system that brooks no dissent,
the congress comes less than a month after US President Barack Obama’s
historic visit and with Havana normalizing ties with the United States,
its longtime Cold War foe.

But if Cubans and international observers were hoping for a sign of
significant political and economic change at the meeting, Castro — the
man responsible for setting in motion economic reforms — swiftly
signaled otherwise.

“The neoliberal formulas that promote accelerated privatization of state
assets and social services such as education, health and social security
will never be applied under Cuban socialism,” warned Castro, who
formally took over from his ailing brother Fidel in 2008.

Castro, 84, defended the slow pace of change to the island’s economy,
which has only cautiously and gradually opened up to some private
entrepreneurship and foreign investment.

“Private enterprise will evolve within defined limits and will provide a
complementary element of the country’s economic framework,” he added, in
remarks broadcast to the country’s 11.3 million people on state television.

Warming to the theme, he defended Cuba’s one-party system that has seen
dissidents arrested and locked up: “If one day they manage to divide us,
it will be the beginning of the end.”

And Castro again blamed Washington’s more than five-decade-old embargo
on the island for its economic impact on Cuba. The United States and
Cuba are slowly normalizing ties, even reopening embassies in each
other’s capitals, but the trade embargo on Cuba remains.

– Held in secret –

In contrast with the las party congress, which was preceded by a
wide-ranging public debate, this one was being held in secret, with only
the state-controlled press allowed to cover the proceedings.

The last congress, in 2011, introduced significant reforms of the
island’s economy, cracking open the door to small-scale private
enterprise and foreign investment.

This one, the Seventh Congress, had raised expectations that it could
set the stage for accelerated political and economic changes following
the rapprochement with Washington.

But ahead of the meeting, Cuban authorities poured cold water on those
hopes, signaling that continuity would be the watchword at the four-day,
closed-door session involving 1,000 delegates and another 3,500 invited
participants.

For the first time, the agenda of the Congress was kept secret and will
not be debated publicly, something that has surprised even the ruling
Communist Party’s rank and file.

The congress was expected to approve an economic and social development
program for the 2016-2030 period.

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
brothers.

“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,” said Mauricio de Miranda, a
Cuban economist at Colombia’s Javeriana University, ahead of the meeting.

Experts say that Cuban authorities appear more interested in making it
clear that there will be no capitalistic restoration, not now and not
when Cuba’s revolutionary leaders leave the scene.

Source:
www.menafn.com/1094710992/Raul-Castro-rejects-privatization-shock-therapy-for-Cuba?


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