Reportage. After criticism, the Communist Party is opening a grassroots consultation on 32-page plan to modernize the economy and society.

Cuban government solicits public input about nation’s future

The Cuban Communist Party has begun a massive grassroots consultation on social, economic and institutional strategy to develop a plan for the next 15 years, with the aim of building Cuba into a “prosperous and sustainable socialism.”

The new cache of government documents relate to the “economic and social model of socialist development” and the “2030 national plan for economic and social development: a proposal for the nation’s vision, axes and strategic sectors.” These are the guidelines prepared by the party leaders with a large commission for political scientists, university professors and economists, who were chosen during the VII Congress of the Communist Party in April.

Starting Wednesday, and going until the end of September, these documents will be examined by thousands of committees, not only by the core Communist leaders, but also by “mass organizations” from the Communist Party: students and young communists, women’s federations, the union of workers and others. The method used by the Communist Party summit to elaborate and discuss the socio-economic and political future of the country, without a previous consultation to the masses, had in fact been criticized in the Communist Party base and in parts of the population.

While the Party leaders worked out their plans in “secrecy,” the criticisms were expressed publicly, mainly through the internet but also in a few articles in the official press. The Communist Party summit, which under to the Cuban Constitution is the only political force in the nation’s leadership, had to cope with a quite unusual situation: internal and public criticism that could not be concealed by a call to discipline, considering that in several speeches the president Raúl Castro had encouraged both Party heads and citizens to openly voice their concerns and proposals.

Hence the decision to launch a massive grassroots consultation, announced in an editorial in the Communist Party daily, Granma, entitled: “A debate about the future of Cuba.” The Party leadership claims that the documents “are of the utmost importance. … They are not the result of improvisation, as opposed to a collective elaboration; under the direction of the party, university professors, academics, researchers in economics and social sciences, government and party officials contributed.”

In the following phase, the texts have been approved at the highest levels of the party, the government and the national assembly of people’s power. Since the documents were “very complex and draw the path of the Cuban revolutionary process,” the government has allocated substantial funds in order to ensure that “every citizen has access to the documents” and can examine them, so that the grassroots consultation process can “enrich and perfect them.” Therefore, 680,000 copies of the 32-page tabloid were printed “to be debated by to grassroots organizations and collective entities.”

Another 200,000 copies were put on sale for the general public, and copies can be downloaded from the Granma website, particularly “for the tens of thousands of Cuban workers abroad.” At the end of the three months of debate, the opinions expressed “by millions of citizens, activists or not, will be considered,” processed and will contribute to the final edition of the documents, which will be discussed by the Communist Party’s Central Committee and parliament, which will then elevate the proposals to laws.

This method of a broad national consultation was welcomed. Although some leaders of small and fairly divided dissenting groups have stressed that the announcement in Granma — which involves “interventions of the enemies, the skeptics, those who falter … and those who dream of returning to a society subject to the Yankees’ (American) wishes and claims” — does not facilitate “the free expression of criticism.”

The national plan for economic and social development, especially, outlines the society that the Party leaders want to develop by 2030. In it (paragraph 50), it highlights the need to create “an appropriate, clear and predictable institutional framework for the smooth development of the economy.” It aspires to diversify foreign trade and the sources of funding on which Cuba can rely, especially to reduce the dependence from Venezuela; it presents a plan for (paragraph 31) “the expansion of the internal market to make sure that the demand stimulates domestic production of goods for import substitution and diversification of the productive sector.” From the social point of view (item 213), it hopes for a future “free from discrimination due to skin color, gender identity and sexual orientation, disabilities, background and religious faith.”

“Many of the goals are likely to remain just good intentions; however, some may produce institutional and political reforms,” says political analyst López Oliva.

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