HAVANA TIMES — The Communist Party of Cuba (PCC) opens its 7th Congress today in Havana. Over four days, delegates are expected to approve the leadership’s plans for the future in these times of economic crisis, aging leaders, a new relationship with the United States and the opening to foreign capital.
The last congress took place in 2011, and this one could well be the last presided over by Raul Castro, 84, who says he will not assume a new term as president of Cuba in 2018.
The PCC has a membership of about 10% of the Cuban population and no other political party is permitted. General/president Raul Castro is also the first secretary of the Party. The Congress is made up by 1,000 delegates from around the island.
Former President Fidel Castro is officially one of the Congress delegates, although it is unclear whether the veteran leader of 89 years will attend the meetings at the Havana Convention Center. In 2011, he was at the event. His recent written criticisms of Barack Obama’s address to Cubans and a rare public appearance at a school, added speculation on his possible attending the Congress.
The PCC will follow up on the program of market reforms formally adopted at the previous Congress, held in April 2011, according to information published in the official press. Granma newspaper noted that the government has implemented only 21 percent of the reforms approved in 2011.
In the coming days the delegates must elect members of the Central Committee of the PCC, which in turn determines the members of the Politburo, regarded as the top leadership below the Castros.
Raul Castro announced in 2013 that will leave office in February 2018 and had previously proposed a reform to term limits for senior officials to a maximum of 10 years. It is estimated that the Congress could now give the green light to these changes, perhaps with a constitutional amendment.
“It’s the last Congress that takes place in the life of the historic generation” of the Revolution and should “leave more or less inscribed its legacy,” Cuban analyst Carlos Alzugaray told dpa.
The details of the Congress have been surrounded by secrecy, as is usual in political events of this nature in Cuba.
Even some PCC members criticized in previous weeks the failure to release the documents to be discussed at the Congress, as occurred in previous events.
The Party Congress is expected to support the new policy of dialogue between Cuba and the United States, after decades of ideological hostilities between the two countries.
It is commonplace at such events that virtually everything proposed by the leadership is approved by the unanimous vote of the delegates, as occurs in the Cuban parliament.