Cuba’s politburo threatened by senility

Miami Herald: It is not difficult to understand that the discourse of the Cuban revolution has been manipulating dreams for 50 years in a delirious frenzy of unfulfilled promises.

Fidel Castro, the elderly Marxist dictator, appeared briefly at the Sixth Congress of the Communist Party, looking very fragile, not speaking, raising the arm of his brother Raúl, now confirmed as First Party Secretary, and surrounded by the 15 members of the Politburo, half of whom are generals between the ages of 72 and 83.

Fidel himself, 84, appeared weak and walked with difficulty, but it was clear that, despite his precarious health, he is dying stunningly slowly, which, some analysts say, hinders Raúl Castro’s work.

Half a century into the failure of the revolution, the Sixth Congress concluded with an incoherent report that contained contradictory signals about five-year plans to establish bank credit, decentralize the state’s economy, set up commercial contracts to solve conflicts and give Cubans the right to own their homes and buy and sell cars. But at the end, the hard line of the decrepit Marxist socialist imposed itself.

Arteriosclerosis clung to power. The visceral intolerance of an “irreversible” socialism, along with the crushing presence of the military high command and the absence of a generational relay, formed the framework of the Sixth Congress of the PCC that ended with the delegates singing the Internationale, whose lyrics mention “the poor of the world and the slaves without bread.”

These concepts are applicable to socialist Cuba, which in the past 50 years has become one of the world’s poorest nations, without civil liberties. Perhaps this was the Congress’ most lucid moment.

Pervaded by a high dose of senility, the Politburo admitted only three new members and confirmed José Ramón Machado Ventura, 80, the hardest of the dogmatic leaders, as Second Secretary, with the support of the hardline generals, including Ramiro Valdés, another veteran of the Sierra Maestra.

Machado Ventura refuses to abandon the Marxist-Leninist model and, like Fidel Castro, only admits economic concessions of a superficial and cosmetic nature.

There’s no room for doubt. The Old Revolutionary Guard remained in charge of the Cuban government — something like socialist control of Jurassic Park.

In his report to the Sixth Congress, Raúl Castro referred to his Marxist-Leninist commitment, describing the guidelines as the way “to actualize the economic and social model for the purpose of guaranteeing the irreversibility of socialism.”

Reaffirming the dogma’s hard line, Raúl Castro invoked the memory of Lenin, saying: “There are some very well-defined concepts that, in essence, are just as valid as when Lenin formulated them almost 100 years ago. These must be taken up again.”

How can anyone generate prosperity and emerge from the misery in which the Cuban nation is mired by insisting on the continuity and irreversibility of socialism? That’s simply impossible.

About the generational relay, Raúl Castro stated that the revolution does not have “a reserve of trained substitutes.” That pessimism reminds us of the case of Gen. Arnaldo Ochoa, which led to the process called “the rectification of errors.”

After the execution of Ochoa, Fidel Castro expressed his concern about the evident failure of the schools that trained the new socialist leaders. Everything is the same. Fifty years of revolution, and the state still doesn’t have “a reserve of trained substitutes.”

Two years ago, Carlos Lage, Fernando Remírez de Estenoz and Felipe Pérez Roque, three young promises of the revolution, were eliminated from the line of succession by being removed from their positions.

However, Raúl Castro has found safety in his sons-in-law, Lázaro Expósito Canto, party secretary in Santiago de Cuba, and Luis Alberto Rodríguez López Calleja, head of the Armed Forces’ business group.

That’s how things are going in Cuba under “irreversible” socialism. The good news out of the Sixth Congress is that they promised not to stay in power one minute beyond 10 years.

Pedro Roig is senior adviser at the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies of the University of Miami.

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