Friday, April 22, 2016

The 7th Congress: A Reality Check

The 7th Congress: A Reality Check
ROBERTO ÁLVAREZ QUIÑONES | La Habana | 21 Abr 2016 - 1:17 pm.

Without surprising those harboring low expectations, the Seventh
Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC) dealt a reality check to
Cubans and all those around the world who had hoped for news of major
changes on the island.

The event not only did nothing to improve the lives of ordinary people,
but also approved decisions that will actually aggravate the devastating
national crisis that is choking the country.

If I were asked to sum up the Congress, in a nutshell, I would say that
the civil-military elite of the West's only single-party state doubled
down on its reactionary positions and presented the rawest evidence in
57 years of the disconnect between the dictatorship's leaders and the
Cuban people.

In addition to approving greater restrictions on the self employed, the
Congress decided not only to ban the concentration of private property,
but also wealth (riquezas), a word that was not included in the
Guidelines of the 2011 Congress. As did his brother Fidel in 1968, now,
well into the 21st century, General Castro accused entrepreneurs of
having "unscrupulous attitudes" and thinking only about "making more and

Nor were the self employed granted legal personality or recognized as
owners of small businesses. The owner of a family restaurant, for
example, will continue to receive a license, on a personal basis, as a
"food vendor." Private property? No way. Also out of the questions is
freely importing and exporting goods, or doing business with foreign

The clearest message sent by the VII Congress was that, as long as
Castro is in power, there will be no real change on the island. The two
brothers are the problem and not the solution. They ruined the country,
and they're not going to be the ones to save it. One thing is to think
about what they should do for the Cuban people to progress, and quite
another is what they do and will do.

The historical experience of "real socialism" shows that in no country
has the old communist leadership undertaken processes of profound
reform. In China it was only after the death of Mao Tse Tung that
economic reform began. In the Soviet Union it was not Brezhnev, Andropov
or Chernenko or who launched perestroika and glasnost, but Gorbachev,
younger and without ties to the Stalinist past shared by his
predecessors. In Vietnam, Doi Moi (renewal) occurred after the elderly
leaders of the Ho Chi Minh era either died or stepped down due to
illness. Why should be believe that Cuba is going to be any different?

The Cuba-US thaw, paralyzed

With respect to the "thaw" and the normalization of relations with the
United States, the Congress has, in fact, frozen the whole process, and
resuscitated the old rhetoric of Cuba as a besieged fortress, apparently
for two basic reasons.

First, the Castros and the gerontocracy are very concerned about
rapprochement with the US, extremely rattled by President Barack Obama's
visit and his popularity on the island. Hence, they ordered the Foreign
Minister, Bruno Rodríguez, to describe the US president's visit as an
"attack" on Cuba. And that's what he did.

Moreover, as Obama clarified, he has made all the unilateral concessions
that he can, and it is now up to Congress to lift the embargo, so the
military junta cannot keep asking for more goodies without giving
anything in return, which was the strategy thus far. It is very likely
that, given the circumstances, the regime now wants to pressure
Washington with the threat of unleashing another kind of Mariel crisis,
or that of the balseros from 1994, if it does not put an end to the
embargo in the short term.

Raúl Castro, a "hardline" leader

Moreover, the confirmation of historic dinosaurs in the Political Bureau
(except for Abelardo Colomé) and, in particular, the ratification of
Machado Ventura - who turns 86 in October - as the second secretary of
the PCC, and the country's second-in-command, was another clear
indication of the party elite's Jurassic intentions.

As for Raúl Castro, who does not seem decided on withdrawing from the
CCP in 2018, it is worth noting that his image as more pragmatic and
moderate than other longstanding hardline commanders is errroneous. On
the contrary, it is precisely Raúl who heads up the troglodyte wing of
the Political Bureau and the entire nomenklatura, faithfully carrying
out the mission entrusted to him by his beloved brother.

Something that has gone almost unnoticed, but it is important, is the
announcement by General Castro that the Party's Central Committee (the
dictatorship's political and administrative backbone) will only admit
those age 60 and under, and the age limit to have a leadership position
in the PCC will be 70.

This smells like a first step paving the way institutionally so that
Alejandro Castro Espin, age 50, can be the future dictator, heading up
the PCC, though not the State, when his father believes that his time
has come. Whether this will come about or not remains to be seen, but
that is the general's intention.

Constitutional reform. What for?

The situation is similar surrounding the announced reform of the
Constitution, which may involve wresting from the President of the
Council of State his position as Supreme Commander of the Revolutionary
Armed Forces (FAR), as is established by the current socialist
Constitution; and also separating the positions of the President of the
Council of State and the President of the Council of Ministers so that
they are held by different people, and not just by one, as has been the
case until now.

Looking at that future constitutional amendment in this light clears up
doubts about the situation when Castro II steps down as president in
2018, at which point he could be replaced by Miguel Díaz-Canel as head
of State – but without him holding the powerful Commander-in-Chief of
the Armed Forces position, and, perhaps, neither that of the Head of the
Government, who would be the Prime Minister. That is, within two years
Díaz-Canel could be an updated version of Osvaldo Dorticós, or Manuel
Urrutia, the two figurehead presidents who had no real power whatsoever.

Finally, if something evidenced the total disconnect between the PCC and
the people it claims to represent it was that the VII Congress did not
even have one word of encouragement and hope for Cuba's increasingly
exasperated young people, who will now, obviously, reject everything
that the Castro regime represents even more vehemently.

And they will be more determined to leave the country. The dramatic
exodus of young Cubans fleeing in search of opportunities for a better
life, denied them by the manifestly anti-Cuban dictatorship, is one of
Fidel and Raúl Castro's greatest crimes.

Source: The 7th Congress: A Reality Check | Diario de Cuba -

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