Cuba Politics

Cuban Communist Party Congress Update

Posted April 14, 2011 by publisher in Cuba Politics.

Rob Sequin | Havana Journal

The first Cuban Communist Party Congress since 1997 will be held from April 16 through the 19th in Havana. This is the sixth Congress. The previous ones were held in 1975, 1980, 1986, 1991 and 1997.

About 1000 delegates from all over Cuba will convene to vote on about 300 proposed reforms to Cuba’s government and economic policies. Also, since Fidel Castro recently announced that he had resigned from the First Secretary position, it is expected that Raul will step in as the new First Secretary. However, many people in positions under him may change.

We will post news items as they are confirmed and will post them here.

April 14, 2011 | Marc Frank | Reuters

Cuba’s ruling Communist Party plans to chart a new economic and social course for the Caribbean island at a congress which begins this weekend. The only item formally on the agenda is “updating” the economic model of what is one of the last one-party communist states of its kind left in the world. The Sixth Cuban Communist Party Congress is considered the most important since the current Soviet-style system was adopted at the first party congress in 1975.

The following are major economic policy themes up for discussion, according to draft proposals circulated:


The proposals to improve Cuba’s economic situation aim at paying back creditors and funding development projects. They back efforts to substitute imports and increase exports. “Work with the maximum rigor to increase the country’s credibility in international economic relations through the strict fulfillment of contractual obligations,” one states. But then it goes on to call for restructuring of the foreign debt. There is also little mention of easing regulations to attract more foreign investment.

One proposal however does call for the development of “special economic zones to promote development”, and others for the promotion of tourism activities beyond hotels, such as golf courses, amusement parks and marinas. According to the proposals, state companies will continue to dominate the economy. But, recognizing the existence of new private initiatives in the previously heavily centralized Cuban economy, the proposals now talk of encouraging “mixed capital companies, cooperatives, farmers with the right to use idle land, rented property landlords, self-employed workers and other forms that contribute to raise the efficiency of social labor”.


The state should get out of administering the economy in favor of regulating it through taxes and other mechanisms. “Control of state business activity will be based principally on economic-financial mechanisms instead of administrative mechanisms,” one proposal states. Yet, according to an introduction to the proposals, planning will still predominate. “In the updating of the economic model, planning will be paramount, not the market,” it says. Although given there are virtually no completely free markets in Cuba, this implies they will play a larger role.

State-run businesses are to be granted more autonomy to make day-to-day decisions, handle personnel, set prices, reinvest their profits and trade abroad and at home, though still under guidelines imposed by the government. Bankrupt businesses would be considered as just that, and “liquidated” instead of endlessly subsidized as before.


Economic decisions should be decentralized where possible to provinces and municipalities and revenue flows shifted to strengthen local governments, the proposals recommend. Localities are called on to become self-sufficient in food, promote small scale manufacture and processing, and participate more directly in investment decisions. State businesses would pay a new local tax to area governments where they are located, as would the self-employed and small businesses.


The proposals call for the eventual lay off of 20 percent of the state labor force of some 5 million workers, and drastic cuts in unemployment benefits. These measures were first announced in September and began to be implemented in October.

The goal appears to be the creation of a labor market and freeing up funds to pay remaining workers more in hopes of improving productivity. Reorganized free healthcare and education systems would remain, along with social security, low cost sports and culture, according to the proposals. But the “libreta” food ration, a trademark of the paternalistic Cuban socialist system, would be phased out, prices of subsidized utilities increased and other state subsidies and gratuities gradually ended and replaced with targeted welfare.


The state plans to cede large portions of the farming and retail sectors to private entrepreneurs, cooperatives and leasing arrangements. The “non-state” sector would eventually account for close to 35 percent of the labor force, compared with the current 15 percent. The proposals repeatedly refer to supporting small private businesses and farms, cooperatives and other “non-state activities”, while making clear profit-taking will be capped. “In the new forms of non-state economic activity the concentration of property by businesses and individuals will not be permitted,” the proposals state.


One proposal calls for a “review of current prohibitions that limit internal trade,” referring among other matters to a ban on buying and selling cars and homes. Looser restrictions on such sales would be warmly welcomed by ordinary Cubans.

Member Comments

On April 14, 2011, publisher wrote:

Here is a good summary of the current challenges in Cuba and why the Congress is so important this time by Ana Faya.

On April 15, 2011, publisher wrote:

Great summary by regarding what the Cuban Congress will be discussing.

On April 16, 2011, publisher wrote:

COHA interviewed a senior official at MINREX about the upcoming Congress. The article is worth your time to read it.

What Can be Expected from this Weekend’s Cuban Communist Party Congress?

On April 16, 2011, DGarrett wrote:

Thanks for this.  Good information.

On April 17, 2011, publisher wrote:

Phil Peters of the Cuban Triangle provides a great summary and analysis of the Cuban Congress.

On April 17, 2011, publisher wrote:

Cubapolidata has posted the English translation of Raul Castro’s opening speech to the sixth Congress.

Be sure to check in with Cubapolidata and the Cuban Triangle for expert updates and analysis on the Congress.

On April 19, 2011, publisher wrote:

Fidel Castro resigns from all Cuban government positions.

Cubans allowed to buy and sell real estate but cannot have a “concentration” of property.

Term limits for party officials to two consecutive five year terms.

Probably 99 land leases so watch for some major announcements concerning golf courses in Cuba.

On April 19, 2011, publisher wrote:

In case you’re wondering, Fidel is on board with EVERYTHING…

“He shared (the report) with me several days ago on his own initiative, just as he has with many other subjects without my asking him,” Fidel wrote.

Expect reports to come out all day today as news is released from the Congress and analyzed by the international media.

Even though these new guidelines are being approved, they still have to be made into laws by the National Assembly which should happen by the end of this month.

On April 19, 2011, publisher wrote:

In a big disappoint, Raul is (s)elected as First Secretary and Jose Machado Ventura is (s)elected as Second Secretary.

So, don’t expect too many changes especially since most Cuban government statements are more talk than action.

Note too that even though the government has given out more than 200,000 small business licenses, many are being returned already due to the high taxes.

Remember the National Assembly has to make the laws out of the guidelines that come out of this Congress and you can count on the fact that the devil is MOST CERTAINLY in the details.

On April 19, 2011, publisher wrote:

Cubapolidata posted a video of Fidel arriving at the Congress.

Everyone in the room gave him a standing applause but their job depends on their blind faith in their God.

Now that Raul and Jose are official in charge of all things Cuban, will these sycophants follow them into “battle”?

On April 22, 2011, publisher wrote:

Great summary of the Cuban Communist Party Congress.

On April 22, 2011, bernie wrote:

My thoughts on the word sycophants seems to me, would be more applicable to the USA senate and congressman towards israel????

Giving israel 8 million US dollars a day is the ultimate form of sycophancy??????

On April 22, 2011, publisher wrote:

As usual you change the subject when the truth is told.

On April 29, 2011, miguel wrote:

Bernie (comment # 12) is right: Politics understood as ”struggle for power” (Max Weber) implies opportunism regardless of system. The publisher’s “psychophants” is only an invective reflecting his strong emotions.

Whether the Cuban party will remain loyal to its new leadership: I guess they will, as there is no alternative. In this I agree with the US Interests Section in Havana (the WikiLeaks cable which the publisher of this journal found “uninteresting” – the whole text in Spanish and English can be found on the official Cuban web-site )