and its relationship with the ongoing Communist Party Congress
By Osmel Ramirez Alvarez
HAVANA TIMES – It doesn’t seem like a complete coincidence that three days before the 8th Cuban Communist Party began on April 16th, over 60 measures were announced, which have the ultimate goal of boosting agriculture in the country.
This is the exact sector that is responsible, now more than ever, of ensuring food supplies for Cuban households, amid shortages due to low productivity and the country’s limited abilities to import. The results of a centralized state system that continues to be inefficient, no matter how much they want to think it over and insist on giving it the spotlight.
The decisions were announced with no specific details yet, and most of them have been alterations of others that were recently made as part of the Reforms Process or other long-standing ones that have been damaging production for decades, with economists and producers calling them out, but to no avail. They had to reach rock bottom, reach a level of desperation brought on by shortages before making decisions and implementing them half-heartedly still.
It’s worth pointing out that this Congress is taking place during a very tense political moment, as the historic generation – which people still call “the Revolution” – will hand over the ‘Party’s’ leadership (the only political organization allowed and with the right to participate in national politics), to other cadres who they have picked in their image and resemblance, but without the highly-exploited image of military feats on their CVs.
They are only doing this because they feel pressured by Time’s ticking hand, as those who still haven’t died are already very old to carry on in the spotlight. They have no choice but to let go of power and give it to their offspring. Even though the current situation couldn’t be any worse, they couldn’t wait any longer.
On the one hand, the systemic crisis has become a lot worse, reaching unprecedented levels this century, and the COVID-19 pandemic has made it even worse. On the other hand, civil society and the political opposition are speaking out and challenging the regime by demanding change on the path towards democracy, economic freedom and respect for all human rights, with an unprecedented turnout and levels of support, although it is still in its budding phase.
The Internet has played its part in this, especially this space for freedom and dialogue that is social media, where our people have felt a little freer to speak their minds in over half a century. It’s a space that challenges and is pulling the rug from out under the Communist Party, which is used to having social and media control. This is the first Congress to be held with the Cuban people truly connected, because when the past Congress was held five years ago, the Internet was still taking baby steps.
They know this. They know that the Cuban people are indifferent when it comes to the Congress, that the general public do not trust their press and of the pretty much total lack of confidence in their policies. They also know that the peaceful opposition and real civic society are making more of a mark on the general population and are taking over social media, which is exactly where they have more freedom.
It is clear that they are afraid and are appealing to a political-psychological response in the Cuban people, by creating expectations of a promising production leap in agriculture, which will provide relief to Cuban dinner tables in the short term, like Diaz-Canel preaches. It’s almost like an election campaign promise that they know won’t be met from the beginning, but they say it anyway out of need and the desire to spark enthusiasm and support.
The 63 measures announced are more of the same old, there’s no doubt about that, but they are a little less drastic than they have been up until now, and with a feint of liberating productive forces: that’s it. As long as the State continues to intervene by deciding prices, players and even trivialities, as long as ACOPIO continues to benefit from commercializing produce and there is only competition with their “left-overs or where they fail; as long as farmers continue to be tied to intermediary state-led agricultural companies and to one bank’s credit monopoly, everything will remain the same.
As long as different economic players are not allowed to exist, including the unrestricted participation of the private sector and competition on a level playing field in the entire production process, even in exports/imports, no significant progress will be made.
The new measures can be used to generate a little bit of confidence and popular support, but only among those who are committed to the system the most, the least connected, and as a result, the least informed. It doesn’t look they will be able to convince the vast majority because they have lost all credibility, quite frankly. They have failed too many times and Cubans are freeing themselves from the social control and manipulation of the State/Party’s media monopoly.
This series of measures also intends and needs to reach the Congress with some agreements that have already been met from the last one and getting rid of red tape is extremely important, amid a landscape rife with setbacks and unfulfilled plans.
Anyway, no matter how much enthusiasm they want to stir, the national landscape is looking quite dull and bleak. Let’s hope this is the immediate prelude to the change that Cuba needs, which I’m sure won’t come from the current Communist Party Congress.