14ymedio, Havana, 16 April 2016 – In a room with huge images of Carlos Balino, Julio Antonio Mella and Fidel Castro, the Seventh Congress of the Cuban Communist Party opened in Saturday. Jose Ramon Ventura, Second Secretary of the PCC Central Committee, offered the opening words, in front of 995 delegates – of the 1,000 elected – present at the Palace of Conventions. Five delegates are not participating in the great event, among them the former Cuban president.
A few minutes into the event there was the first unanimous vote, in this case to approve the agenda. Raul Castro gave a speech of a little more than two hours, the main report dressed in civilian clothes, and recalled the days of the Bay of Pigs, emphasizing the role of State Security in this military victory.
The Cuban president warned that the island will never follow “formulas of privatization” or apply “shock therapy” during the so-called process of updating the economic model. “Cuba can allow itself to apply the so-called shock therapy, frequently applied to the detriment of the most humble classes of society,” he said.
Referring to Article 5 of the Cuban Constitution in which the Communist Party is enshrined as the highest leading force of society, Castro affirmed that “we have a single party and I say that with pride.” The first secretary of the PCC affirmed that “it is no coincidence that they attack us and demand, in order to weaken us, that we divide ourselves into several parties in the name of bourgeois democracy.”
However, for those who speculate that the party meeting will be the stage to announce the legalization of other political forces, Castro emphasized that “if they succeed in fragmenting us it will be the beginning of the end of the fatherland, the Revolution and socialism.”
The president proposed to establish “60 years as the maximum age to join the Party Central Committee,” and also noted that “up to 70 years” would be the time to hold senior Party positions.”
The report detailed that there are 670,344 PCC militants. The reduction in their number was attributed by Raul Castro to demographic reasons, to a policy restricting growth in the organization since 2004, and deficiencies in the work of recruiting and retaining members.
To justify the secrecy and lack of consultation that has surrounded the documents to be discussed during the Congress session, Castro said that unlike the previous Congress when the people were consulted on the Guidelines, this time a popular consultation was not undertaken, because it was a confirmation and continuation” of the line agreed to five years ago.
With regards to the “main course,” announced as a national development plan to the year 2030, which is “the fruit of four years’ work,” it “could not be finished,” declared the president and there would be continued “work on its drafting” which would end in 2017.
Similarly, there will be not discussion of the so-called “conceptualization of the model” but there will be a prior discussion with the participation of the Party militants, the Union of Young Communists (UJC) and the mass organizations, so that later the Central Committee can approve the final version.
The slowness in implementing the Guidelines approved by the previous Congress, of which only 21% have been completed, also found a justification in Castro’s words when he warned that it was known ahead of time that the process “would not be easy.” “The main obstacle has been the burden of an obsolete mentality which creates an inertia and lack of confidence in the future,” he said.
The “socialist state enterprise is in a disadvantageous position compared to the non-state sector,” Castro admitted. The distortion brought about the by dual currency system along with the low-key performance of the economy are the causes “that have not allowed the application of the agreement about improper gratuities and subsidies because a widespread wage increase has not been possible.”
Castro announced a program of “improving the education system” and said that the public health system will be reorganized to “increase its quality and make it efficient and sustainable.”
Calls for “more discipline and exigency” were also heard during the reading of the report because “ears and feet must be firmly planted on the ground,” explained the first secretary of the PCC.
The cold water also came for those who expected announcements about an early reunification of the dual currency system. The update of the “monetary and exchange rate is a matter that we have not stopped on working on and whose solution will not be left for the twelfth of never,” explained Castro. He commented that this reordering will eliminate “the harmful effects of egalitarianism” so that “the standard of living corresponds to the wage income.” He also confirmed the decision to guarantee “bank deposits in international currencies, in Cuban convertible pesos and in Cuban pesos, as well as the cash held by the population.”
“We are not naïve nor do we ignore the aspirations of powerful external forces that are committed to what they call the empowerment of non-state forms of management with the intent of generating change agents to put an end to the Revolution by other means,” added Castro, who, however, declared that it is necessary to set aside “prejudices” with respect to foreign investment and to advance into new businesses.
With regards to Guideline 3, which states unequivocally that non-state forms of production will not permit the concentration of ownership, he now added that not will it concentrate wealth.
However, Castro explained that the concept of private property over the means of production for small businesses is widened, although he insisted that the fundamental means of production must be in the hands of the people.
In conclusion, the General expressed a wish that from this Congress “will emanate the principal directions of our work.”
Starting Saturday afternoon, the Congress delegates will work in four committees, which will also meet on Sunday in the Palace of Conventions in Havana. The Congress will look at 268 Guidelines of those approved at the prior congress: 31 original guidelines, 193 that have been modified and 44 that have been added.
On Monday, all participants will meet in a plenary session and vote on the nomination of the Party Central Committee. On that day the members of the Politburo and the First and Second Party Secretaries will also be announced.