Continuity and modernisation, themes of eighth Communist Party Congress

Photo by Abrajam Escalante 

Generational change, continuity, and modernisation of the Cuban Communist Party so that it is better equipped to lead in a rapidly changing world, were the main themes of the eighth Party Congress which ended on 19 April. As expected, the fourday event saw the remaining members of Cuba’s historic leadership stand down, and a younger generation take control.

Speaking at the end of the Congress as the new First Secretary of the Party’s Central Committee, President Díaz-Canel made clear that the Communist Party’s role in the coming years would be to ensure continuity and Cuba’s survival as a socialist state.

During a lengthy tribute to Raúl Castro, who was retiring as the Party’s first secretary, Díaz-Canel assured members and Cubans that he “will be consulted on the strategic decisions of greatest weight for the destiny of the nation”, and will be “well aware of everything”, contributing ideas, and alerting the new leadership to “any error or deficiency”. Also demitting office were several the Party’s more conservative and orthodox figures including second secretary, José Ramón Machado Ventura, and others in its leadership who are now in their eighties.

During his remarks, Díaz-Canel touched on several themes considered during the Congress including the Cuban economy, the threat posed by the US to Cuba’s development strategies, the challenge of responding to the use of social media, and the need for the Communist Party to innovate, become more professional, proactive and be able to lead and enthuse the Cuban people.

The Economy

On the economy, Díaz-Canel said that the past five-year period which the Congress evaluated had not shown good economic results because of inefficiency in parts of the state business system, structural problems, overspending, and a lack of control of material and financial resources, as well as unnecessary bureaucracy.

Noting that the Party had expressed its dissatisfaction with simply maintaining a level of economic survival, he said that in the shortest time, Cuba with the least possible external dependence, must modernise its approach. To do so, it must, he said, solve the challenge of producing food, make the best use of renewable energy, develop sustainable high-quality tourism, orient national production to meet the demands of the domestic market, raise the quality of all services, and improve the efficiency in the investment process.

Díaz-Canel was critical of the way aspects of the ‘reordering task’ of currency unification and allied economic reforms had been undertaken, failings which he said were in part due to the insufficient preparation of some managers, inadequate interpretation of the regulations, and misunderstandings.

The United States

Addressing relations with the US, he said that its actions had “escalated to qualitatively more aggressive levels” over the last four years making it the “main obstacle to development” and Cuba’s ability to advance its search for prosperity and well-being.

“Our aspiration is to live in peace and interact with our northern neighbour as we do with the rest of the international community, on the basis of equality and mutual respect, without interference of any kind”. “It is the position of the Party and the State”, he said. He also pointed out that the US and Cuban people could find “mutual benefit” in exploring the possibility of bilateral cooperation in relation to the pandemic.

“We express the will to develop friendly and cooperative relations with any country in the world, we are satisfied to practice internationalist solidarity even in countries whose governmental ideology we do not share”, Díaz-Canel told delegates.

Social media

On the subject of social media and cultural change, he said that “no people are safe from lies and slander in the ‘post-truth’ era, warning that the resources used in the generation of content, allow powerful groups, mainly from highly developed countries to create ideas and ideological currents “often completely alien to the context that they impact”. They contribute, he said “to promoting political instability in the attempt to overthrow governments, where the will of a free and independent nation has not been broken”.

“It is time to understand and use all the resources of social communication, particularly networking to address the issues that shake society, to exchange and provide a timely response from any institution that citizens go to, to encourage participation, transparency and accountability, to show the spirits that move the country”, he noted.

The Communist Party

Speaking about Cuba’s Communist Party and the need for reform, he noted that the country was “not marching on a proven route”. “We are challenged to constantly innovate, changing everything that needs to be changed, without giving up our strongest principles”. In noting the need for change Díaz-Canel referenced the experiences of China and Vietnam and their “undeniable progress in the economy and the standard of living of their populations”.

While defending socialism, Cuba’s Communist Party would he said need a “change in its work style, more in keeping with this time and its challenges”. “Today it is up to the Party to consolidate the authority gained by the merits of the historical generation and to preserve the leadership and moral authority of our organisation. To achieve this, it is “essential to strengthen the dynamics of the Party’s operation and the proactivity of its membership in the face of the most pressing problems facing society” Díaz-Canel told the 1,000 plus delegates and guests who attended the Congress in person.

“We need more consensual ways and better prepared documentation to foster honest and contributing [internal] debates …. to stimulate popular debate …. and regular meetings with students and young people from different professions and trades”, he observed.

“These are not times of printed newsletters or waiting for long coordination and analysis processes to promote debates in our nuclei. The dynamics of this time obliges us to seek more agile, brief, and innovative ways of communicating orientations. In the age of the Internet, which already allows millions of Cubans to carry a certain perception of the world on a cell phone, our messages to the militancy cannot follow the slow route of the old printing press”, Díaz-Canel told Party members.

To support this changed approach, Díaz-Canel said that the Congress had approved a strategy for the preparation of cadres [militants] that will include the scientific approach to their selection, training and promotion, and which will take into account the stages of transit through different responsibilities.

The new Politburo and Central Committee

The eighth Congress approved substantial changes in the membership of the principal bodies that guide Cuba’s Communist Party. Some 88 members of the Central Committee departed, and its numbers are now reduced. The majority leaving were from the historical generation but notable among those who were not reappointed were Rodrigo Malmierca, the Minister of Foreign Trade and Foreign Investment, Víctor Gaute, the Head of the Ideological Department of the Communist Party, and Marino Murillo, the Head of the Commission for the Implementation and Development of the Guidelines, who was publicly responsible for the ‘reordering task’.

The new Politburo of the Central Committee was named as Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez , First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Party and President of the Republic; Esteban Lazo Hernández, President of the National Assembly and of the Council of State; Salvador Valdés Mesa, Vice President of the Republic; Roberto Morales Ojeda , Secretary of the Politburo; General Álvaro López Miera, Minister of the Armed Forces; Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla, Minister of Foreign Affairs; Ulises Guilarte de Nacimiento, Secretary General of the Central de Trabajadores; Teresa Amarelle Boué, Secretary General of the National Directorate of the Federation of Cuban Women; Martha Ayala Ávila, Director General of the Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology; Manuel Marrero Cruz, Prime Minister of the Republic; José Amado Ricardo Guerra, Secretary of the Council of Ministers; Luis Alberto Rodríguez López-Calleja, Executive President of GAESA; Major General Lázaro Alberto Álvarez Casas, Minister of the Interior; and Gladys Martínez Verdecia, First Secretary of the Provincial Committee of the Party in Artemisa.

A full list of the other members of the Central Committee and its Secretariat can be found at

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