Thursday, December 29, 2011 » 08:16pm
Cuba's Communist Party is expected to consider a strategic overhaul at
its first National Conference in 50 years next month, including a
radical presidential proposal to impose term limits on top leaders.
President Raul Castro has said the gathering, set for January 28, will
tackle big social issues like discrimination and official corruption,
and will look at how to handle Cubans' access to the internet and social
It will also take on a proposal by Castro, 80, to impose a 10-year term
limit on government officials, including the president and party leaders.
Such changes would amount to a mini-revolution in the country where his
brother - the revolutionary icon Fidel Castro - ruled for almost five
decades before handing over power to Raul in 2006.
'In January, the party's National Conference is to be held, so there is
no time to rest,' the president told the National Assembly on Friday.
He was more direct on August 1, saying: 'If we do not change our
mentality, we are not going to be able to ride out the changes that are
necessary to guarantee' the current system remains in place.
As defence chief, Raul Castro turned Cuba's armed forces into major
players in the country's tourism sector.
Few expected he would open Cuba up politically, but many thought he
would champion economic reforms.
He has implemented some reforms, such as allowing Cubans to have mobile
phones and stay in hotels once reserved for foreign tourists.
He has also pared state payrolls while encouraging more Cuban workers to
But some analysts argue the president has dragged his feet on other
reforms, even as Cuba's economy has sputtered.
Others believe that his range of motion may be limited by the
The Americas' only one-party Communist regime has been on the ropes
economically and politically since the end of the Cold War.
The country of 11.2 million has been in economic crisis mode for more
than 20 years.
With the loss of vital Eastern Bloc partners in the early 1990s, Cuba's
economy largely collapsed, sending thousands of Cubans fleeing on
fragile rafts across the Florida Straits to the United States.
The two countries still do not have full diplomatic ties.
Havana later found a new ally in Hugo Chavez, the leader of oil-rich
Over the past decade Venezuelan aid has allowed Cuba's leaders to
indefinitely postpone the kind of market reforms undertaken by formerly
communist countries elsewhere in the world.
January's high-stakes party conference could well be the last one for
the Castro brothers, given their age - both are in their 80s - and
Cuba's dire economic straits.
Most Cubans make the equivalent of about 20 dollars a month.
As long ago as December 2010, Raul Castro warned the National Assembly:
'Either we put this right, or it is time to stop getting close to the
edge... We are sinking, and we will sink... the efforts of whole