HAVANA – Cuban President Raul Castro laid out a series of measures designed to guarantee that a new generation will take over the Communist Party and announced a constitutional reform that includes the “modernization” of socialism, while making it clear that the current one-party system will be maintained and that the island will not return to capitalism.
In his inaugural address to the 7th Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba, Raul Castro proposed limiting the maximum age for members entering the party’s leadership: 60 years for admission to the Central Committee and 70 to become part of the Politburo.
This, together with the measure adopted by a previous congress in April 2011 to limit government positions to two consecutive terms in office, “will guarantee a systematic rejuvenation from the base in the entire system,” said Raul Castro, 84, who will step down from the presidency in 2018 at the end of his second term.
“These are five years of transition,” Castro said, adding that the goal is to make sure the renovation of party and government structures “flows naturally,” though in the process it will remove from power the historic generation of the revolution, which to this day occupies important positions in the party and the government.
In a 2 1/2 hour speech to the 1,000 delegates elected by party members along with 280 guests, Castro again addressed the need for constitutional reform, which includes all aspects of the “modernization” of socialism initiated five years ago, but without altering the “irrevocable character” of its present political system.
The Cuban president said the new constitution, to be ratified in a popular referendum, will include the “conceptualization” of the new economic and social model, which must define the territory and combinations of private and state enterprises – a matter that, because of its complexity, cannot be resolved by this congress.
Castro admitted that micro, small and medium-sized private companies have proliferated on the island following the economic reforms set in motion over the past five years, but warned that this does not in any way imply the “restoration of capitalism.”
He said that the state-run company will continue being the main economic model for socialist Cuba, and that the reforms categorically “specify that non-government businesses will never be allowed to concentrate property or riches.”
“We’re not ingenuous, nor are we unaware of the influence of powerful external forces that seek to empower non-government business forces as agents of change in hopes of ending the revolution and socialism in Cuba,” Castro said, a veiled reference to U.S. support for Cuban entrepreneurs.