Rogelio Manuel Diaz Moreno
HAVANA TIMES — About to hold the seventh Congress of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) next April, the country readies for what appears to be a moment of radical redefinitions – the kind that can reshape the lives, circumstances, hopes and frustrations of current generations. The preparations for the gathering, however, are enveloped by a haze of uncertainty that seems designed to encourage public indifference.
Let us revisit recent history. The PCC’s highest decision-making mechanism, the said congress, had a highly irregular period of absence between the 5th and 6th gatherings. The latter, held at the start of the current decade, reaffirmed the new Party “Guidelines” and validated these as the roadmap of the current government’s reform process. Though the Guidelines were conceived away from public scrutiny, at a given point prior to the 6th Congress, they were made public for discussion and approval. The debate surrounding the Guidelines was not exactly democratic or transparent, but recent developments make one look back on those times with nostalgia.
These days, a well-designed campaign aimed at keeping public opinion at bay prior to the next congress seems to be in place. This campaign has been able to rely on the population’s more pressing concerns, such as the galloping inflation affecting produce and livestock products. When these concerns wane a bit, the Pope makes a timely visit, followed by the very President of the United States, or the debate surrounding the country’s sports system – particularly baseball – and its relations with the professional sports world – particularly the Major Leagues – is rekindled.
In this context, Cuba’s Granma newspaper reports that the majority of the representatives who will take part in the coming congress come from the farm sector. This will allow the congress to reflect the country’s reality, this official newspaper claims. However, we know that more than 70% of Cuba’s population was born or resides in cities. The country’s predominant economic sector is that of services. Since, as we know, the instances where representatives are selected are chosen “at the top,” the makeup of these congress participants smells like manipulation.
The document that appears to be the key to the upcoming 7th Congress is the Conceptualization of Cuba’s Economic and Social Development Model. As in previous occasions, this document was prepared behind closed doors and by secret commissions. I said that it only “appears” to be a key instrument because I haven’t found any official information confirming that it will actually be the main course of the Congress. No common citizen in this country has had access to those plans.
When the Guidelines were officially approved at the 6th Congress, the Cuban population at least had a glance at the recipes that would later be used to cook them up. On this occasion, not only the general public but also the rank and file of the PCC in general has been denied the possibility of analyzing this document.
According to another note published by Granma, the representatives chosen for the 7th Congress, plus parliamentary representatives and other selected leaders and cadres, will begin to convene this month to discuss the documents “that will be presented for approval” at the said gathering, without offering any details about the said documents. Then, the newspaper adds, those responsible for drafting the original versions of the documents “under analysis” will take note of comments and present more complete drafts, until the expected moment of unanimous approval. Right now, the preparations for the 6th Congress appear in comparison to be the very model of democracy.
Practically no one within the government has spoken out against this outrage. As far as we know, only journalist Francisco Rodriguez Cruz (known as “Paquito el de Cuba”) has shown exemplary honesty and courage by condemning these forms of manipulation, within the constraints of his support for the revolution.
What we take away from and confirm with these levels of secrecy is, once again, how terrified Cuban authorities are by transparency, and their lack of democratic will. Obviously, they are aware of the detestable role they play in denying the Cuban people the right to sovereign decisions. Information is an essential part of power. As such, they don’t want to risk having the new strategies outlined analyzed with sufficient time before the Congress, in a way that can lead to criticisms and even condemnation by public opinion.
Without venturing much, we can say that the programs in question are a continuation of the policies underway and that, in addition, they reflect the contradictions of warring factions. On the one hand, they will call for an extension of the economic reforms and, on the other, they will continue to defend the interests of the elite, protected and shielded by the State.
Ultimately, we are left with the hope that not even the most secretive or Machiavellian of maneuvers will forever ensure that the backward-minded interests of power spheres prevail. The voice of common people, anxious to exercise their rights and freedoms, is gaining strength in every space within its reach. Social criticisms and demands need not wait for the publication of a spurious document to continue their work towards a more participative, democratic and – for those of us who defend such ideals – socialist nation.
Soon, most of the representatives to attend the 7th Congress will play the sad role of stand-ins for the minorities who called upon them and the not-so new concepts in question will be made public. Then, the continuing suffering, the hopes, feelings and will of the people, will determine, like always, the future ahead of us.