Cuba
Photo: Juvenal Balán, Granma

Raul Castro, leader of the Communist Party of Cuba, has announced that he is stepping down and handing leadership to a younger generation “full of passion and anti-imperialist spirit.”

Fidel Castro and Raul Castro have led the Communist Party of Cuba party since 1961.

Ready to defend revolution

“As I live I will be ready with my foot in the stirrups to defend the fatherland, the revolution and socialism,” Raul Castro told party delegates at the party congress in Havana on Friday.

Raul has served as First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba since 2011, when he replaced his late brother, Fidel Castro. Fidel became prime minister (later president) of Cuba following the 1959 revolution, and first secretary of the party two years later.

Raul Castro stepped down from the presidency in 2018, when Miguel Diaz-Canel took over the office, but remained in charge of the party.

Cuba remains one of the communist states in existence, despite Raul Castro introducing some limited free market reforms in 2011. The country’s healthcare system and literacy rate rank impressively high compared to many capitalist nations. There are only 173,000 cars between the country’s 11 million people.

Whichever party loyalist takes Raul Castro’s responsibility will have to grapple with an economy facing hard time with the coronavirus pandemic, and strained relations with the U.S. While Donald Trump sanctioned and forbade travel and commerce with Cuba during his term as U.S. president, Joe Biden has promised to thaw relations with Cuba. However, he has yet to change any of Trump’s policies.

Eighth Party Congress begins

A Granma, official voice of the Communist Party of Cuba Central Committee, report from Havana on April 17, 2021 said:

Evoking the thinking of Commandant Fidel Castro Ruz, who defined the Party as “the soul of the Revolution,” the 8th Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba, began in a Convention Center in Havana, Cuba’s capital, presided by Army General Raul Castro Ruz, first secretary of the Party Central Committee. José Ramón Machado Ventura, second secretary of the party; and Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez, President of the Republic among other leaders of the Party and government joined the congress.

Opening on the 60th anniversary of the proclamation of the socialist character of the Revolution by Fidel Castro Ruz, in the voice of Party militants, the congress will once again reaffirm the irrevocability of its emancipatory work and, as expressed in the Congress call, reiterate before the world its “intransigent conviction of victory.”

In his opening remarks, Machado Ventura stated, “The Party is a guarantee of national unity and the synthesis of the ideals of dignity, social justice and independence of generations of patriots who preceded us and those who have defended us over all these years of struggle and victory.”

He added that in the five years since the 7th Congress, Party members and the entire people have been immersed in important political processes, to implement agreed upon amended Policy Guidelines, and objectives outlined in the Party’s First National Conference, as well as the new Constitution, ratified in a national referendum.

What has been achieved in these years and what remains to be done, the Second Secretary emphasized, has been analyzed in review and accountability processes of grassroots organizations and the territorial structures of the Party, the findings of which are included in the documents delegates will discuss, once again, and finally approve.

Machado Ventura explained that, in mid-March, the first drafts of these documents were submitted to delegates in their respective provinces, for their consideration in meetings in which other guests participated.

Regarding the coming days of the Congress, he commented that an important portion of delegate’s time will be devoted to work in commissions, facilitating a greater exchange of opinions to reach consensus on issues raised in provinces and thus be able to approve, in a plenary session, the definitive version.

Machado noted that represented among delegates are many sectors, including production workers, educators, service providers; farmers, intellectuals, scientists, combatants, and retirees, with a composition by gender and skin color that reflects the characteristics of our society, while 94% are university graduates.

Insisting on “the conviction that we will remain true to the legacy of our martyrs and the example of Fidel and Raul”, Machado concluded his remarks, and thus began four days of intense debates and the search for solutions, with no other commitment than to rise to the occasion, to continue the defense of what has been accomplished and to set foot on the path of more conquests.

After the opening remarks, delegates approved documents that will govern the gathering and subsequently, Army General Raul Castro Ruz began presentation of the 8th Congress Central Report.

Included on the agenda to be considered are the updating of the Conceptualization of the Cuban economic and social model of socialist development; the implementation of the Guidelines of the Economic and Social Policy of the Party and the Revolution; the socio-economic results obtained since the 7th Congress; the functioning of the Party, its ties with the population; Party ideological activity; and examination of the cadre policy.

Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez twitted on April 16, 2021:

“To dream and continue a country: today begins our #8thCongresoPCC, #CongresoDeLaContinuidad. Here ideas are strengthened, history is recognized and we talk about the future. #SomosCuba #SomosContinuidad”

Continuity is the watchword of this meeting, which means more the natural process of transition from one generation to another, to become a perennial certainty that socialist Cuba is on the go, today and for all the years to come.

A twit from the Communist Party of Cuba on April 16, 2021 said:

 “Presided by Army General Raul Castro Ruz, First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba, [the Congress] was inaugurated a few moments ago at the Convention Palace in Havana, #Cuba, the #8thCongressPCC #CubaSocialist #SoñarYContinuar”

Parties in China, Vietnam, North Korea and Laos salute the 8th Congress

Another Granma report said on April 16, 2021:

The Communist Party of China, the Communist Party of Vietnam, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s Workers Party, and the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party sent messages of congratulations and solidarity to the Communist Party of Cuba, on the occasion of the opening of the 8th Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba.

“The Communist Party of Cuba constitutes the leading nucleus of the revolution and the construction of socialism. In recent years, it has led the Cuban people to achieve important results in economic development, in improvement of living conditions and effectively confronting COVID-19. In this regard, we are very pleased,” reads the text from the Communist Party of China’s Central Committee.

The message adds, “We are convinced that, under the firm leadership of the Communist Party of Cuba, the Congress will provide orientation as an important guide and inject energy into the development of socialism with Cuban characteristics. We reaffirm our commitment to work with the Cuban party to further promote the traditional friendship shared by China and Cuba, strengthen political confidence, deepen strategic communication and constantly enrich mutually beneficial, productive cooperation, in order to jointly achieve new accomplishments in the construction of socialism in both countries.”

The message from the highest leadership of the Communist Party of Vietnam emphasized that the Congress represents the Cuban Revolution’s historical continuity, the eternal spirit of the Sierra Maestra, the Bay of Pigs and Commandant Fidel Castro.

“The special relationship between Vietnam and Cuba – in which the exchange between the two parties provides the political basis for improving bilateral relations and plays an important guiding role – has been constructed by the leaders of our revolutions, José Martí, Ho Chi Minh, Fidel Castro and several generations of Vietnamese and Cuban leaders. This special relationship continues to be cultivated and developed in all aspects, producing major achievements, demonstrating the firm, faithful revolutionary position of the parties, states and peoples of both countries, contributing to revolutionary causes and socialist works in each nation. The unforgettable words of Commandant Fidel Castro, “For Vietnam, we are ready to give even our own blood,” will forever serve as the noble symbol of this sacred relationship,” the message stated.

The Vietnamese text continues, “Despite innumerable difficulties and challenges, Cuba continues to relentlessly raise the victorious banner of revolutionary heroism, in the spirit of transparent internationalism, of indomitable struggle; with active participation in the struggles for national independence and social progress of the peoples of Latin America, the Caribbean, and the world.”

Echoing these sentiments, the Korean Workers’ Party expressed the certainty that this 8th Congress will make an important contribution to defending Cuba’s revolutionary conquests, guaranteeing the continuity and invariability of the socialist cause, achieving the country’s development, and promoting the people’s wellbeing.

“Relations between the parties and countries of Korea and Cuba were established in the common struggle against imperialism and for the successful advancement of the socialist cause; they were tested during complex, difficult international situations and today are being developed comprehensively in accordance with the needs of a new era,” the Workers’ Party’s greeting notes, reaffirming the traditional ties of friendship, unity and cooperation shared by the two organizations.

The Lao People’s Revolutionary Party also emphasized the importance of the Congress, which “will demonstrate the ongoing development of society and the strengthening of Cuban communists. We are confident that the resolutions adopted at the Congress will serve as guidelines and solid foundations for the welfare of the Cuban people,” the congratulatory message states.


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