Cuba’s Communist Party congress approves new reforms

Havana, April 19 (IANS) Cuba’s Communist Party congress ended its third day of closed-door sessions with the approval of new economic and social reforms for the next five years while one of its top young leaders harshly criticised US President Barack Obama’s rhetoric during his visit to the island last month.

The 1,000 delegates of the party congress on Monday approved changes to the process of economic reforms for the following five years which are aimed at opening up a private sector without renouncing socialist economic principles, Xinhua news agency reported.

The new additions or modifications to the guidelines are related to the role of foreign direct investment, the introduction of advanced technology and know-how, and the improvement of local government bodies, among other issues.

“We are working at all government and party levels to implement these guidelines in the next five years to fully update our economic and social model,” said Economy and Planning Minister Marino Murillo.

During the day, the congress also approved a draft document of the national plan for economic and social development until 2030 that will be submitted to popular consultation among broad sectors of Cuban society.

The text defines the strategic goals for the island’s development and identifies key economic sectors for foreign investments.

Some of the party’s top leaders, including President Raul Castro, have called to put an end to bureaucracy and provide greater initiative to implement reforms in the Caribbean nation.

First Vice-President Miguel Diaz-Canel said on Monday that “obsolete” ways of thinking have led to “inertia” in enacting changes during the last five years.

“Along with other deficiencies, there’s a lack of readiness, high standards and control, and little foresight or initiative from sectors and bureaucrats in charge of making these goals a reality,” Diaz-Canel said.

According to the party’s Central Committee, only 21 percent of the original guidelines approved in 2011 have been carried out while the rest are still being implemented.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister and party congress delegate, Bruno Rodriguez, referred to the US president’s visit last month in Havana as an “attack” on Cuba’s history, culture and symbols.

Obama came here to “dazzle” the private sector, “as if he wasn’t the representative of big corporations but the defender of hot dog vendors or small businesses in the US, which he isn’t,” Rodriguez said.

Cuban leaders and media have become more critical of Obama after his visit to the island, with Fidel Castro accusing him of sweet-talking the people and many articles finding fault with his speech to Cubans.

Many have portrayed his trip as an attempt to seduce an emerging private sector to become a strong political force in the country and persuade ordinary Cubans to abandon the country’s socialist values for a free market economy.

Nonetheless, Rodriguez’s response on Monday was a direct blow to US’ intentions.

“Socialism and the Cuban revolution are the guarantees that there can be a non-state sector that is not the same as big North American companies,” he said.

The US and Cuba re-established diplomatic relations after Castro and Obama announced in December 2014 that the two countries would seek to normalize their ties after more than 50 years of Cold War-era animosity.

Cuba’s Communist Party on Monday wrapped up the third day of its twice-a-decade congress with a vote for the 114-member Central Committee, which in turn selects the 15-member Politburo and the first and second secretary of the political organization.

The media said the results of the voting would be revealed on Tuesday just before the closing ceremony, at which the Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro might show up just like he did in 2011.

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