Castro era ends in communist Cuba

Since he took over from brother Fidel as president in 2008 Raul Castro has allowed small-scale pvt businesses, buying/selling of houses and cars, and even use of the US Dollar in select stores

Castro era ends in communist Cuba
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W. T. Whitney Jr.

Former Cuban President Raúl Castro retired from his last major public office standing down as first secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba at its Eighth Congress held between April 16 and April 9. With this, the island nation of Latin America, the first communist nation in the region, bade adieu to the revolutionary legacy of two brothers Fidel and Raul Castro who pioneered the Cuban revolution and consolidated the tiny nation defying American blockade.

Castro had first come to worldwide notice in 1953, when he, his brother Fidel, and other young rebels attacked the Batista dictatorship’s Moncada Barracks in Santiago de Cuba.

In his report to the congress this weekend, 68 years since the Moncada raid, Castro spoke of the “historic generation” and the handover to “new generations” of Cuban Communists.

“I have the satisfaction,” he declared, “that we are handing over the country’s leadership to a group of prepared leaders, hardened by decades of experience as they moved from the base to maximum responsibilities, committed to the ethics and principles of the Revolution and socialism.”

Elected to succeed Castro is current Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel, who will now also serve as the party’s new first secretary.

This year’s party congress coincided with two anniversaries: Cuba’s Bay-of-Pigs’ victory 60 years ago over U.S.-sponsored counter-revolutionaries and Fidel Castro’s declaration of the socialist nature of Cuba’s Revolution.

Raúl Castro presented the main report on the opening day. Castro highlighted contributions of the armed forces (he had previously headed Cuba’s military), the tourist industry disaster due to COVID-19 and travel disruptions, the challenges of managing the pandemic, the “re-ordering” economic changes and conversion to a single currency, the U.S. economic blockade, U.S. interventions in Latin America, European complicity with the blockade, and Cuba’s solidarity with other socialist countries and with Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Puerto Rico. He also cited achievements such as the new Cuban Constitution of 2019.

Significantly, he also criticized “excess bureaucracy,” “the dangerous phenomenon of corruption,” demands by “some professionals” to enter the private sector, subversion of “the socialist principle of a state monopoly of foreign trade,” “inadequate policies of social communication,” and more.

Castro insisted party members “have to erase the dangerous notion, reflecting paternalism and egalitarianism, that Cuba is the only country where one can live without working.”

On the third day of the congress, leaders of three commissions presented three sets of results from their meetings to a plenary session. Prime Minister Manuel Marrero Cruz headed the first commission, which recommended reforms to improve people’s living conditions and make consumer goods more widely available.

The party’s second secretary, José Ramón Machado Ventura, who headed the second commission reported on the party organisation. The report recommended reaching out to new generations, thinking and acting on behalf of the country with “commitment, firmness, creativity, and intelligence,” and strengthening ties to the Union of Young Communists and young people in general.

Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel, who headed the third commission recommended greater ideological grounding; more streamlined processes for selecting and developing cadres; staying strong against corruption and reinforcement of cadres’ social image among other measures. (IPA Service)

US sanctions hurt

  • Donald Trump derailed the 2016 detente with the Obama administration
  • The Trump administration retightened sanctions and made financial transactions with the island all but impossible. Relatives in US lost their ability to wire money to Cuba through Western Union. Cruises were banned, tourism discouraged
  • Covid destroyed the economy despite Cuba’s initial success in keeping it out and a remarkable move to create its own vaccines. The economy shrunk by 11% in 2020, causing imports to fall by 40%.
  • For the first time since the fall of the Soviet Union, Cubans with access to US Dollars were allowed last year to buy higher-quality products in exclusive stores
  • US President Biden has so far refused to reverse Trump’s course. Says John Kavulich, president of US Cuba Trade and Economic Council, “Removing the cap on US remittances wouldn’t even require an interaction with the Cuban government”

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