Headlines, Human Rights, Latin America & the Caribbean

CUBA: Party Aims for Efficient, Inclusive Socialism

HAVANA, Feb 1 2012 (IPS) - Cuba’s communist leaders have mapped out a strategy to modernise their country’s one-party socialist model and make it more efficient, which implies making it more inclusive and representative of a society that is increasingly diverse.

The National Conference of the governing Cuban Communist Party (PCC) held two days of sessions Jan. 28-29, for the first time in the PCC’s nearly 50 years of existence. It analysed and approved policy guidelines that it is hoped will perfect its work to ensure “the continuity and irreversibility” of socialism on this Caribbean island.

The conference was a continuation of last year’s Sixth Congress of the PCC, the sole legal political party in Cuba, which drew up a road map for economic change. “Both these meetings resulted in far- reaching agreements for the present and future of the revolution,” President Raúl Castro said at the close of the conference.

President Castro, elected first secretary of the PCC at the Sixth Congress in April 2011 in the place of his elder brother Fidel Castro, dismissed out of hand the idea of restoring a multiparty model which, he said, existed in Cuba when it was “under neocolonial domination by the United States”.

He defended the one-party system as “a strategic weapon for unity among Cubans” and pointed out that the Cuban constitution, “approved by 97.7 percent of voters in a referendum by means of a free, direct and secret vote” in 1976, defines the Communist Party as the “supreme leading force of society and the state”.

However, analysts insist that the social and economic changes experienced in Cuba since that time, including the consequences of the break-up of the socialist bloc in Eastern Europe, turn this decision to carry on as the only political force in the country into a challenge of the first order.

“The first challenge for the PCC should be to get closer to the social reality of the island, without schematics or dogma,” said Lenier González, deputy editor of the Catholic magazine Espacio Laical, during a debate about the “present and future” of the party, organised by the magazine.

While the draft document before the 811 delegates, who were there representing some 800,000 party members, did propose a number of guidelines related to this need, the conference’s main focus was on internal PCC organisational matters.

According to a statement published in the official Cuban press, the draft document was discussed and modified at earlier meetings of PCC and Young Communist League (UJC) militants. The final version, approved by the conference, contains 101 working guidelines for the party.

Prominent among these are the decision to prioritise action by the party to prevent and combat “corruption, lawlessness and indiscipline,” which Castro said were “one of the main enemies of the revolution,” and more dangerous than the “United States government’s subversive and interventionist programme” against Cuba.

The president announced that the PCC will expel members implicated in corruption cases that are currently under investigation, without prejudice to their administrative or criminal liability. “Within the framework of the law we will be implacable against corruption,” Castro said.

In the past few weeks, videos about some of these corruption cases have been aired at screenings aimed at party militants. Sources consulted by IPS estimated that over 300 people at different levels of leadership were implicated, including several deputy ministers.

Among the guidelines emphasised in the conference resolution is a determination to eliminate once and for all the remnants of prejudice and discrimination of all kinds, and to vigorously enforce the constitutional mandate that prohibits discrimination on the grounds of race, skin colour, sex, country of origin or religious belief.

The PCC should also be more inclusive in appointing to political, governmental and public positions persons belonging to socially disadvantaged groups such as women, Afro-Cubans, mestizos (persons of mixed ancestry) and young people, “based on their personal qualities, qualifications, experience and achievements,” the resolution says.

Castro stated that the proposal approved by the Sixth Congress to limit tenure in the highest political and state positions to a maximum of two five-year terms, will be implemented in tandem with progress in making the necessary constitutional and legislative adjustments.

Another resolution authorised the 115-member PCC Central Committee, designated by the Sixth Congress, to fill the vacancies that arise within it, up to a limit of 20 percent of its total membership, during the period of “its present mandate.” PCC statutes call for party congresses to be held every five years.

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