U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit to Communist-led Cuba was an “attack” on its history and culture aimed at misleading a new business class, Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez said on Monday, the latest sign of anger after the ground-breaking trip last month, Reuters reports:
“In this visit, there was a deep attack on our ideas, our history, our culture and our symbols,” Rodriguez said at the Communist Party congress.
Cuban leaders have hardened their language against the United States since Obama became the first U.S. president to visit the island in 88 years, with Fidel Castro accusing him of sweet-talking the people.
President Raul Castro referred to the United States as “the enemy” in the opening speech of the party congress over the weekend and told Cubans to be alert to U.S. attempts to weaken the revolution….The congress, held every five years, must make decisions about the future of Cuba’s elderly leadership and the progress of market-style economic reforms adopted in 2011 that allowed more small businesses.
“The harsh rhetorical push-back by the ideological wing of the Communist Party suggests their heightened sense of vulnerability,” said Richard Feinberg, a former national security adviser to U.S. President Bill Clinton.
“The key function of the congress is a message that the Obama visit has not changed anything. To reduce expectations,” said Bert Hoffman, a Latin American expert at the German Institute of Global and Area Studies:
Castro reiterated the party’s commitment to the reforms which he said should be implemented faster. But he said Cuba was not moving towards capitalism, citing China and Vietnam as models while emphasizing that social ownership and cooperatives were mostly preferable to private property.
He celebrated Cuba’s growing number of self-employed people but cautioned that the US was seeking to turn them into a opposition force. Obama spent hours talking to small business people and entrepreneurs during his Havana visit.
“We are not naive, and we are aware of powerful external forces that aspire to, as they say, ‘empower’ non-state actors to generate agents of change and finish off the revolution by other means,” Castro said.
A month after the euphoria of Obama’s historic visit to Cuba — which raised hopes of an easing of economic sanctions and greater freedoms — disenchantment and frustration are setting in, The Financial Times reports:
Cubans are now looking to the Communist Party Congress….for evidence of a deepening of economic reforms, and for signs the party’s “historic generation” will begin to hand over the baton of power to younger counterparts. Few, though, have high hopes….Many expect the gathering of 1,000 party members will elect a new politburo, rejuvenating the current 14-strong body, which has an average age of 70.
“The historic generation is passing its biological capabilities . . . It has to renovate,” says Reinaldo Escobar, news editor of 14ymedio.com, an independent news website. “But which new faces will appear? They are the new wave. That’s why this Congress is important.”
If Cuba is opening itself to the rest of the world, it should also open up to its own people, according to a statement signed by regional political leaders, academics, diplomats, journalists and activists convened by the Center for the Opening and Development of Latin America (CADAL).
The road to full democracy must be taken without delay. Each new delay prolongs the precariousness and limitations of the people, hinders the chances of success and raises the risk of internal conflict, said the signatories, including Oscar Arias (Costa Rica), former President and Nobel Peace Prize winner, and Facundo Guardado, a former leader of El Salvador’s leftist Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front and former presidential candidate.
Following the normalization of relations between United States and Cuba, they issued a demand of reciprocity with the democratic world on the part of the Raul Castro administration, to start a true process of political and social opening.
Therefore, it is time to start to open the way, by recognizing at least the following guarantees for all Cubans, including:
- Freedom of expression, understood as the right to seek, receive and send information, opinions and other content by any means without limitations, censorship or later repressions.
- Freedom of association, assembly and demonstration.
- Freedom of movement inside and outside the country.
- The right to petition the authorities and public authorities.
- The right to elect and to be elected, in an atmosphere of plurality, for all public offices.
- The right of not being arbitrarily arrested and detained, to have fair trials before independent courts and to have effective defense mechanisms.
- The right not to be discriminated against in education, employment or social areas because of political or religious beliefs, or for any other reason.
- The elimination of ideological control over education.
- The freedom to undertake professional, labor and business initiatives without restrictions, and that Cubans have at least the same opportunities offered as to foreign investors or traders. The virtual economic, but also social and political, apartheid that exists in the island against its citizens must go without delay.
Opening the Party congress, Castro delivered a grim report on the state of the country on Saturday, acknowledging that the [famously corrupt] communist bureaucracy he oversees has failed to implement most of the hundreds of changes launched five years ago to stimulate the stagnant centrally controlled economy, AP adds:
In a two-hour address to the twice-a-decade meeting of the Cuban Communist Party, Castro praised a new era of detente with the United States and an ensuing boom in tourism. He lamented that his government remained unable to address a series of deeper structural problems that have left millions of Cubans struggling to feed their families…..Citing a government statistic that only 21 percent of the 313 guidelines approved in 2011 have been carried out, Castro blamed the government’s inability to turn goals into facts on the ground.