Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Cuba congress says state's 'obsolete mentality' is holding back economy

Cuba congress says state's 'obsolete mentality' is holding back economy
Leading figures accuse Obama of wanting to exploit private sector to
destabilise country as President Castro criticises state officials over
economic reform failures
Monday 18 April 2016 23.44 BST

Some of Cuba's most powerful officials have criticised the creaking
inefficiency of its state-controlled economy but identified its vibrant
private sector as a potential source of US subversion.

The comments on Monday illustrated the conundrum faced by a Cuban
government simultaneously trying to modernise and maintain control in a
new era of detente with Washington.

The Cuban Communist party ended the third day of its twice-a-decade
congress with a vote for the 114-member central committee, which in turn
selects the powerful 15-member political bureau. The bureau's first and
second secretaries are the country's top officials.

Monday's vote, like the rest of the congress, was open only to 1,000
delegates, 280 hand-selected guests and state journalists, whose reports
revealed virtually no concrete details of the policies that will guide
the government for the next five years.

The congress has been criticised for its extreme secrecy by ordinary
Cubans and even members of the Communist party itself. State media said
the results of the voting would be revealed on Tuesday.

The Cuban president and first party secretary, Raúl Castro, opened the
meeting on Saturday with a sombre evaluation of the state of reforms he
introduced after taking over from his ailing brother Fidel in 2008. Raúl
Castro blamed "an obsolete mentality" and "attitude of inertia" for the
state's failure to implement reforms meant to increase productivity.

First Vice-President Miguel Díaz-Canel, long seen as Castro's successor,
repeated that criticism of the bureaucracy in a speech on Monday
announcing the congress's formal acceptance of Castro's evaluation. He
said obsolete ways of thinking led both to inertia in enacting reforms
and "a lack of confidence in the future".

"Along with other deficiencies, there's a lack of readiness, high
standards and control, and little foresight or initiative from sectors
and bureaucrats in charge of making these goals a reality," Díaz-Canel
said in an excerpt of a speech broadcast on state television.

However, lengthy state media reports on the four-day congress focused
less on proposals for reform than on debates about political orthodoxy
focusing on the need to protect Cuba's socialist system from the threat
of global capitalism and US influence in particular.

A month after Barack Obama's visit to Havana, the first by a US
president in nearly 90 years, Cuban leaders have begun to consistently
portray his trip as an attempt to seduce Cubans into abandoning the
country's socialist values in favour of a desire for free markets and
multiparty democracy.

On Saturday, Castro said "the enemy" was targeting young people,
intellectuals, the poor and the 500,000 members of Cuba's new private
sector as vulnerable to persuasion.

On Monday, the foreign minister, Bruno Rodríguez, went further, calling
Obama's visit "an attack on the foundation of our history, our culture
and our symbols".

"Obama came here to dazzle the non-state sector, as if he wasn't the
representative of big corporations but the defender of hot dog vendors,
of small businesses in the United States, which he isn't," Rodríguez said.

Aged 55 and 58, respectively, Díaz-Canel and Rodríguez are members of
the generation expected to move into the highest ranks of power in Cuba
as early as Tuesday when the congress's vote is announced.

Castro said on Saturday that he was proposing an age limit of 60 for
election to the central committee and 70 for lower-ranking but important
posts in the party.

Castro is 84 and his second secretary, hardliner José Ramón Machado
Ventura, is 85.

Source: Cuba congress says state's 'obsolete mentality' is holding back
economy | World news | The Guardian -

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