Thursday, October 27, 2011

Varied reactions to Communist Party policy document


Varied reactions to Communist Party policy document

The conference, which has the power to make changes to the party's
Central Committee, comes on the heels of the PCC's Sixth Congress, held
in April.

HAVANA, Cuba, Thursday October 27 (By Patricia Grogg) - The Communist
Party of Cuba (PCC) began a wide process of consultation among its
members this week with a view to an upcoming national conference charged
with charting policies on issues that range from generational renewal
and the internal functioning of the party to dealing with corruption and
other social problems.

Several active party members confirmed to IPS that they were asked to
organise meetings of their local chapters to discuss a document that
will be the focus of the national conference.

The conference is an unprecedented event, although according to the
party's internal rules, a national meeting of this type may be held
between party congresses to address "important matters of party policy."

"I'm going to take my thoughts with me in writing so I won't forget
anything," said a 48-year-old party member, who declined to be
identified. "One of the ideas I will raise is that the party should
outline a more concrete policy on youth, and create the conditions that
can satisfy the aspirations of so many young people in the country who
are emigrating in search of better prospects," she said.

The conference, which has the power to make changes to the party's
Central Committee, comes on the heels of the PCC's Sixth Congress, held
in April, which focused on defining the course and depth of reforms now
underway, described by authorities as the "updating" of the country's
economic model. A key objective of the upcoming conference, therefore,
is to determine the changes needed to be able to ensure that the PCC –
the country's only political party, which has some 800,000 members out
of a total population of 11.2 million – is able to live up to the
demands of the current circumstances.

According to President Raúl Castro, this means leaving behind a
mentality tied to "dogma and obsolete points of view."

Discussions at the conference, to be held on Jan. 28, 2012, will
concentrate on a 97-point central document, which has been in public
circulation since last week, both in printed tabloid form and on the
government website Cubadebate.

The economic and social policy guidelines debated at the April congress
were also widely circulated prior to that event. Unlike that document,
however, which was submitted for mass debate in assemblies and meetings
involving more than eight million people, the conference document will
be formally discussed only by PCC members, the Young Communist League
(UJC) and mass organisations "on all different levels," according to
official announcements.

The draft document has sparked different reactions among party members
interviewed by IPS. For some, "it doesn't say anything new," while
others say it is poor and does not contain any core concepts or lines of
work. Nor does it expressly mention key issues for party functioning,
such as the "dysfunctionality" that exists between the party, government
and State. In his central report to the Sixth Congress, President Castro
said that one pending problem is the confusion of tasks and functions
among those three powers, manifested in the "weakening of political
work" by the party and the "deterioration" of government and State

The conference agenda devotes several points to the strategic
generational change in key political and government posts, and makes
proposals such as ensuring that leaders have "solid professional and
technical training," in addition to ethical, political and ideological
qualities. It also proposes term limits based on time and age, including
a maximum of two consecutive five-year terms for political and State
offices, which would also cover the president of the councils of State
and Ministers.

On social questions, some of those who talked to IPS said they expected
"more," expressing a certain amount of disappointment.

"I think mention of the race issue is weak," said Tato Quiñones of the
Cofradía de la Negritud (CONEG), an association of black people aimed at
raising awareness about racial issues. "Maybe it is not given enough
importance, or perhaps we put too much of a priority on it, but we
believe that it is a very important issue that should be discussed
seriously," he said. CONEG, which promotes periodic debates at the
community level on the persistence of inequality and discrimination
based on skin colour, is one of the groups that hope the national party
conference will analyse the race question in depth, and will produce a
working programme to address the issue.

"I agree that the issue should be mentioned more strongly in the
document, but there is material for debate," Esteban Morales, a leading
researcher on race relations in Cuba, told IPS. "I think it is a
conceptual document, and that modifications will emerge out of the
consultations." In any case, the text clearly expresses that the PCC
proposes "dealing with prejudice based on race, gender, religious
beliefs, sexual orientation and others…that can limit the exercise of
people's rights, such as holding public office and participating in
political and mass organisations."

It also emphasises a determination to deal with gender-based and
domestic violence and violence in the community. According to experts,
the abuse of women is an issue that has been silenced for decades, and
changing that situation requires political will and a multisectoral

The conference document also says it is necessary to step up efforts to
deal with the causes and conditions that generate "social indiscipline,"
"illegality," corruption and other phenomena that, together with
bureaucracy and negligence, "are undermining the foundations" of Cuban
society. In that sense, the PCC proposes stronger actions to prevent and
deal with these problems.

In 2009, the president created a special Comptroller General's Office to
audit and investigate public companies. Headed by Gladys Bejerano, vice
president of the Council of State, the Office was tasked with exercising
closer scrutiny and taking direct action in response to any sign of

Since then, several dozen officials and executives of Cuban companies
and joint ventures with foreign firms have been tried and convicted in
corruption cases, including a former minister, a former vice minister
and at least three foreign business executives.

More recent cases involve the communications sector and at least three
foreign companies with investments in Cuba, which are also subject to
investigation. No official information on the cases is available, and
the state-controlled media has not reported on them.

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