HAVANA TIMES — President Raul Castro inaugurated the Seventh Congress of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) on Saturday with a report read for two hours. He said that a new model would not be approved in this event as previously announced.
Castro acknowledged the existence of small and medium businesses but stressed the prevalence and importance of state ownership. Politically, he confirmed that Cuba would remain a socialist, one-party system, while announcing a proposal for age limits for the leaders.
Raul Castro, 84, who also holds the position of First Secretary of the PCC, said that the definition of the Cuban social model required further debate that will continue after the Congress, to be later approved by the Central Committee.
The differences have to do with ownership and production systems, which have changed since self-employment was authorized, including small and medium businesses [with salaried employees]. However, he made it clear that accumulation in a few hands of the means of production and services, or the riches derived from them, would not be allowed.
He noted that under the cover of the economic reforms, the new US strategy is aimed at influencing the self-employed and entrepreneurs. He said he is confident that most of these Cubans are revolutionary and patriotic but that Washington’s new policy continues to pursue the destruction of the Cuban Revolution. He argued that more effective political and ideological work is needed, especially among young people, self-employed and intellectuals.
To reassure the more orthodox wing of the Party, Castro said that the growth of cooperatives would be slow, first consolidating what already exists and studying the implications of each future step. He said the “socialist state enterprise” will continue to control the largest segment of the economy and that the upcoming monetary unification would benefit their development because now the exchange rate puts them at a disadvantage versus private businesses.
Raul Castro was also unable in this Congress to carry out the promised generational transition, which he said will take place gradually over the next four years. He proposed age and term limits for all leaders of the PCC: two periods of five years in office, a maximum of 60 years to enter the Central Committee and 70 for the Politburo, the body holding the most power on the island.
The president said it was time that many leaders were caring for grandchildren and reading books, but the silence in the room was such that he had to explain that it was a joke.
He announced the need to debate the necessary changes in the constitution to update it according to the reforms that have been implemented. The constitution declares illegal, for example, private production of goods or services based on hired labor, dubbed as “exploitation of man by man”.
However, he said the article stating that the socialist system is irrevocable and that the Communist Party is the leading force of society, would remain intact.
Raul Castro said that any division into several parties would be to weaken and destroy the revolution. He joked about the US two-party system saying it would be like Fidel and himself creating two parties.
It is still too early to know exactly what will come out of this 7th Congress but it is clear that a consensus on the new model is unlikely. The disagreement has to do with factors that are intertwined, such as the slow pace of generational transfer and a fear in some that the changes would open the door to capitalism and a group of business leaders who long for an outcome similar to what took place in the Soviet Union, when executives working for the state became the private owners of the companies they managed.
Raul Castro again confirmed that he will leave the presidency of Cuba in 2018 but did not mention whether he would continue at the helm of the Communist Party after that date.