Before referring to the expectations regarding the VIII Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC), scheduled for the middle of April, I reviewed what I had published on the eve of the VII Congress, held in 2016 and, except for some details, I discovered the title could be the same this time: “Neither more of the same nor surprising news.”
To argue that it would not be more of the same, I said then: “Those who rule in Cuba know that they are obliged to change something or at least to give the impression that they are willing to do so,” and to illustrate the absence of novelties I introduced this paragraph that I allow myself to reproduce here now:
“There will be no surprising news such as opening the door to the multiparty system or launching a privatization program. No one will speak at this event of reconciliation between Cubans or dialogue with the opponents. An amnesty will not be decreed for political prisoners nor will the legitimacy of the alternative civil society, nor freedom of expression to the independent press be recognized.”
It is curious that that VII congress was held under a sign of hope, given that President Barack Obama was willing to put an end to the long dispute between Cuba and the United States. Seven months later, Donald Trump’s victory frustrated all the optimism that had been harbored about the possibility that Hillary Clinton could continue the policy of a thaw.
Now, as they say in Cuba, “the movie is running backwards” and the dire prognoses that could have shaded the great partisan gathering is corrected by the illusion that Joe Biden intends to reduce the belligerence and return to rapprochement. There will be someone in the White House writing down what they say at this event and they know it.
In another field of news, perhaps the most notorious is that Raúl Castro will no longer lead the PCC. The one who once inherited the top leadership from his brother suggested that his successor could be Miguel Díaz-Canel, but the latter’s poor performance in the role of president of the Republic has raised doubts about the proposal. Yet hardly anyone ventures to mention the name of another possible candidate.
A disturbing question is who will relieve the almighty José Ramón Machado Ventura. At 90 years of age and after two terms as second secretary of the PCC, it seems obvious that he will go into retirement. Whoever occupies his position has a good chance of one day succeeding the person who remains in command of the party. I hope it’s a woman.
New faces will join the Central Committee (CC), among them most likely the three men who have risen the fastest in the chain of command: Manuel Marrero, current prime minister; Alejandro Gil Fernández, Minister of Economy and Planning, and Gerardo Hernández Nordelo, the former spy who was appointed a member of the Council of State in December 2020. In the case of the latter, it should be specified why his biography does not identify him as a Party member.
Among the material for analysts will be the questions around who leaves the CC of the PCC and its Political Bureau, and the old list of pending individuals who have never entered the select team, among whom are Alejandro Castro Espín and Mariela Castro Espín, the only two (and last) opportunities for a member of that family to remain in a position of power, at least publicly.
At the beginning of December of last year, Machado Ventura confirmed that the date of the next Party Congress would be April 16 to 19. His theoretical contribution consisted in stating that this would be “the Congress of historical continuity.”
In late November, the Covid-19 pandemic still seemed a controllable threat, but just over two months after the announcement, more than 500 daily infections are reported and the introduction of the vaccine is no more than a headline in the triumphant press.
As the National Assembly of People’s Power has brought together the deputies in a virtual way, to avoid contagion, there would be nothing extraordinary in something similar being done on this occasion.
Although no one has mentioned the possibility of a postponement, it is striking that at this point the candidate nomination process has not begun nor have the traditional provincial events that precede each congress been announced.
In the midst of the hardships suffered by Cubans due to shortages and the high cost of living, it is unlikely that any interesting news can be expected to come out of the agreements that the communists make in their Cenacle. Perhaps some delegate dares to question the controversial stores the offer their products only in exchange for foreign currencies, or to denounce the untenable situation of the retirees, but no one will know. It will be the continuity of the useless.
Like those grandmothers who every Christmas Eve presage “next year I will no longer be with you at the Christmas holidays,” there are many who, on the eve of these congresses, predict that this one will be the last to be held. I resist falling into such stubbornness, but I find it hard to believe that, on these same dates in 2026, I will have to repeat myself in the face of another repeat offense.
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