¿A dónde vamos?- The Sixth Party Congress
It’s finally here. Cuba’s historic Sixth Party Congress begins tomorrow, and with it, the official embrace of a radically new economic model that has gradually been unveiled by President Raul Castro since taking power from brother Fidel back in 2006.
To help shed some light in what is driving this VI Party Congress, its implications for Cuba’s future, and that of U.S.-Cuba relations, lecturer and PhD Candidate at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver, and frequent Havana Note contributor, Arturo Lopez-Levy has authored an excellent new report that addresses these questions and much more. The report will be made public at the New America Foundation’s U.S-Cuba Policy Initiative website next week, but in the meantime we wanted to provide you with a few excerpts here.
On President Raul Castro’s economic reforms:
“Most of these ideas about economic reform are in their initial stages. It is not yet clear just how mixed the new economic model will be and whether Raul Castro’s government will be able to efficiently implement its adjustment plan. There are obviously many impediments and flaws to the process, the most important of which is the lack of funds to ameliorate transition costs and speed up the implementation of the new policies. Equally important is the Cuban leadership's preference for gradualism. Shaped largely by what is seen as Russia's horrific experience with a shock-therapy approach to economic reform, this predilection for slow change has seemingly rendered Cuban leaders oblivious to the problems associated with excessive gradualism.
A great challenge for the reform process will be addressing the fact that workers in Cuba’s social services, such as education and health, have already been disadvantaged by the development of Cuban tourism and other industries with access to hard currency, or CUC. The reforms are obviously generating winners and losers and it is difficult to determine what kinds of policies the government will use to compensate the latter. There is no evidence that in the coming years, even if the economy prospers, health and education professionals will share in rising wages or improvements to living standards. The same can be said about the reforms' impact on the most vulnerable and poor segments of the Cuban population.”
On the release of political prisoners negotiated between the Cuban Catholic Church and the Cuban Government:
“By releasing most of the political prisoners, the government began to foster a friendlier international environment for its economic reforms. Building a sustainable, mixed economy became the priority once Washington’s aggressive tone was tamed and the political opposition’s main activities were channeled into cyber protests or vigils inside homes. The gesture was also politically savvy after the unjustifiable death of prisoner Orlando Zapata Tamayo, whose hunger strike served as a rallying point for both the Cuban opposition on the island and the exile community. It was clear something dramatic was needed to counteract the political sympathy opponents of the government generated among national and international actors traditionally not hostile to the Cuban government, as a result of Zapata’s death.”
On U.S. policy:
"The United States must remove all barriers to trade, international assistance and investment that affect Cuba’s emerging private sector. American and Cuban-American trade and investment in joint ventures with Cuban non-state owned entities must be encouraged. President Obama’s decision to remove limits on remittances sent to Cuba's private sector and religious groups is a good step, but insufficient. A Cuban nationalist position rooted in economic growth, anti-corruption and political stability and in partnership with American society is the best antidote to dreams of a Latin America governed by totalitarian nationalists united in their antipathy for the United States."