Cuba's parliament meets to approve Communist Party roadmap

Reuters News
Posted: Jun 01, 2017 11:04 AM

By Marc Frank and Sarah Marsh

HAVANA (Reuters) - With less than a year until Raul Castro steps down as president, Cuba's parliament met on Thursday to vote on documents confirming the Communist Party as the country's guiding force and banning the concentration of wealth.

The national assembly was summoned for an extraordinary session to approve documents reaffirming the one-party political system and state domination of the socialist economy, even as the Caribbean island allows some private business and foreign investment. Assembly deputies regularly approve such documents unanimously after some discussion.

The meeting was called as U.S. President Donald Trump considers rolling back the U.S.-Cuban detente launched under his predecessor, Barack Obama, due to what he charges is a lack of democracy and respect for human rights in Cuba.

While it was planned before Trump's election last November, the gathering will send a clear message that Cuba will not make the political and economic concessions that Trump has demanded.

The documents to be discussed resulted from last year's Communist Party Congress and include a theoretical justification for ongoing efforts to loosen up the Soviet-style command economy and a "national plan for economic and social development until 2030."

The Communist Party is the "leading" and "only" political organization and "the superior leading force of society and the state," the theory document begins. It cites as guiding lights Cuban independence leader Jose Marti; communists Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin; and Fidel Castro, the late president who led Cuba's 1959 revolution.

The documents make some reference to the incipient private sector, such as family firms, but also stress the means of production and most farm land as "property of the whole people" through the state.

Cuba's economy is currently staving off a crisis as a tourism boom that followed the 2014 deal between Castro and Obama to improve relations fails to offset declining shipments of bartered fuel from key socialist ally Venezuela and a drop in exports.

Critics say the government should bolster growth by carrying out more reforms, while hardliners who distrust market economics and any change that would lessen their hold on power balk at that.

Raul Castro, who took over the presidency in 2008 from his ailing brother Fidel Castro, has vowed to step down as president next February and as head of the Communist Party by 2021.

First Vice-President Miguel Diaz-Canel, 57, is seen as the heir apparent.

Castro, 85, said last year that those who fought in the revolution and remain in Party and government positions would all leave office over a five-year period.

However, Cuban authorities have been at pains to highlight at every opportunity that the revolution will not end with the deaths of the "historic generation" or the handover of power.

(Editing by Frances Kerry)