From April 16 to 19, the 8th Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC) was held at the Palace of Conventions in Havana. The quinquennial meeting – not always held – of the island’s most powerful body to review the country’s leadership and elect new members to the Political Bureau and the Party Central Committee. For this year, the main novelty was the announcement of the retirement of Raúl Castro.
Although there was speculation about a possible delay in the decision, due to the serious crisis the island is going through, Raúl Castro resigned from his post on the first day of the meeting, keeping his word and opening the possibility of ‘a change of course. from the country. However, the days ahead showed that luck was in store and Miguel Díaz-Canel, Raúl’s successor as first secretary, would be tasked with ensuring continuity.
Headlines in the world’s main media ranged from “A New Era Without Castro” to “Castro Leaves, Castro Remains”. On the one hand, categorical expressions which augur winds of transformation and the possibility of a change in the policy that has governed the island since 1959. On the other, expressions of continuity which clearly indicated that the 62 years of dictatorship would not be left behind just because of the departure of one of your patriarchs.
While both titles have some truth, the point is that in addition to the symbolism of the Castro surname, the changes made by Congress are aimed at continuity.
The hopes of millions of Cubans were dashed when the nomenclature of the island showed signs of maintaining the road map which has so far led the island to a dramatic situation in which, with long lines of supply, it is increasingly devalued, a foreign exchange trade. to citizens who earn in national currency and a wave of repression against artists, activists and journalists.
Besides the arrival of Miguel Díaz-Canel as first secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba, the departure of Marino Murillo from the Political Bureau and the arrival of Luis Alberto Rodríguez López-Calleja stand out.
The first, representative figure of economic reforms and the visible face of the economic order, and the second, son-in-law of Raúl Castro and executive chairman of the group of companies of the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR), responsible for strategic sectors for the island , such as tourism and hospitality.
Two changes that denote the political cost of bad economic decisions and Raúl Castro’s supervision of the Party body with a man he trusts.
The Political Bureau is now made up of 14 members, only three of whom are women, while the Central Committee has reduced its membership, as 88 have left and 55 new members have joined. This change, to a certain extent, implies generational renewal, but in no way means a change of scenario.
An example of continuity is that of Humberto López, host of the Hacemos Cuba program, who has so far been busy denigrating artists, activists and independent journalists on Cuban television during prime time and who is now rewarded for his membership in the Party organ. Everything seems to indicate that the demonstration of “revolutionary” skills, such as censoring, harassing, attacking or suppressing citizens who freely demonstrate, is rewarded.
On the other hand, opposition demonstrations and citizens’ complaints are severely repressed. This is the case of Luis Robles, the young man who demonstrated with a sign of rejection of the dictatorship and spent months in prison. Carrot for “revolutionaries” and stick for opponents and dissidents.
López’s case is not the only one. Mayra Arevich ceased to be the president of ETECSA – Cuban Telecommunications Company – to become the new Minister of Telecommunications, and Jorge Luis Perdomo, who until now held this post, became Deputy Prime Minister.
The first was promoted by making the telecommunications company available to block those who disagree with the regime and prevent their communications with the outside world; and the second to promote censorship and defend Legislative Decree 370 (known as the Azote Law) by which island activists and journalists were harassed, fined and punished.
The messages are clear and the Party Congress has sent signs of continuity in its closed-door event. However, Havana’s militarization and long supply lines are signs of a party disconnected from the citizens.
While many waited for a sign of openness that would free the economy and allow it to cope with devaluation, inflation and scarcity, ordinary citizens, as journalist Yoani Sanchez points out, are beginning to see that the only way out is to “run away”. It is not a question of weakness, but of despair and resignation.
One can only hope that the alternative expressions, turmoil and social effervescence, like the one repeatedly felt in the San Isidro neighborhood, will spread enough to cause the dictatorship to change course. If there is a way out of Cuba, it is in the hands of the citizens and not in the hands of an elderly party disconnected from reality.
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