Alarcon: Old Communist leadership around thanks to CIA
Cuban Assembly head Ricardo Alarcon says that a rejuvenation is needed
of the country's Communist leadership.
By Juan O. Tamayo
The head of Cuba's legislature, Ricardo Alarcon, says he knows why his
country has such old leaders — the CIA never managed to assassinate them.
Alarcon made the comments during an interview after the ruling Communist
Party's first Congress in 14 years unveiled a newly selected Political
Buro last week whose ages averaged 68.
Raul Castro, 79, replaced his 84-year-old brother Fidel as first
secretary. José Ramón Machado Ventura, 80, was named second secretary.
The party's No. 3, Ramiro Valdés, turned 79 Thursday.
Alarcon, 73 and head of the National Assembly of People's Power,
acknowledged in the interview with the Web site Progreso Semanal that
the island's leadership needs rejuvenation.
"But, well, what can we do?" he said. "The revolution is already 52
years old … (and) from the start, an essential part of the policy
promoted by the United States was the physical liquidation of the Cuban
"Because they failed, there's a lot of us left. So, what are we going to
do? Self-destruct? In other words, do what the CIA couldn't do?" Alarcon
added. "There is no need to remove an octogenarian from the (party's)
Central Committee just because the Empire couldn't kill him earlier."
The text of the interview did not indicate whether Alarcon was joking or
being serious, but he went on to complain that news reports on Cuba's
"gerontocracy" failed to note younger party members in lower leadership
"Why don't they talk about the majority of the Central Committee
members, who were born" after the Castro revolution's victory in 1959,
The 115-member Central Committee usually meets twice a year. The
15-member Political Buro, the party's top ruling body, meets almost weekly.
Alarcon's comments during the April 22 interview with Progreso Semanal
journalist Manuel Alberto Ramy was not the first time he gave what
seemed to be a flippant answer to a tough question.
In 2008, Eliécer Avila, a student at the Computer Science University
near Havana, asked him during a meeting why Cubans must obtain a
government exit permit before travelling abroad.
"If the whole world — its six billion inhabitants — could travel
wherever they wanted, the bottleneck in the planet's airspace would be
enormous," Alarcon answered.
Alarcon also commented on the reasons for the delay in the publication
of the document with the 311 "guidelines" for critically needed economic
reforms that was approved by the Communist Party during its April 16-19
The guidelines cover bold but risky changes such as dismissing more than
1.5 million public employees, giving more autonomy to state enterprises
and allowing a significant expansion of private enterprise.
Alarcon said that delegates to the Congress made many changes in the
document — although Castro's opening-day remarks that the Political Buro
already had approved them seemed to warn against further changes.
"The document I saw in my committee [of the Congress] was changed
umpteen times. And I know other committees made changes, too," he said.
"I'm waiting for the Congress Secretariat to finish putting it together,
after it was modified in each of the five committees, modified in a very
rich, indeed diverse, debate" Alarcon noted.
He added that some of the guidelines "were rejected" because the timing
was not appropriate, but gave no further details.
Alarcon also noted that the National Assembly already has begun to
consider how it will enact, starting this summer, the legal changes
needed to put the reforms into place.
He also cautioned that the guidelines should not be regarded as
hard-and-fast dogma to be followed blindly.
"We're not saying 'Here's a model of what socialism must be.' We're
trying to re-invent it, to re-found it, so everything is being
considered with a practical eye, pragmatic, as the Americans would say."