HAVANA | January 29, 2012
At the Communist Party's first national conference in Havana, Cuba on Sunday, President Raul Castro delivered his discourse and defense of Cuba's one-party political system. He also issued a strident warning to the 800 delegates attending the Communist Party's first national conference to fight corruption that he said was the greatest threat to the revolution. Corruption, Castro said, was greater than anything the United States could dream up.
In an unyielding closing speech to the conference, Castro vowed to continue his pledge to institute 2, 5-year term-limits for Cuban officials. Castro explained that a constitutional amendment would be required, however, urged leaders to begin to adopt the practice even before its formalization.
The recurring theme in Castro's speech at the conference was the U.S. threat to Cuba and the limits the threat placed on Cuba's reform. "There has been no shortage of criticism and exhortations by those who have confused their intimate desires with reality, deluding themselves that this conference would consecrate the beginning of the dismantling of the political and social system the revolution has fought for for more than half a century," Castro said. He further declared that Cubans that push for a multi-party system are forgetting that Cuba is under siege from their Goliath (the United States) neighbor to the north that would stop at nothing to destroy it. "To renounce the principle of a one-party system would be the equivalent of legalizing a party, or parties, of imperialism on our soil," he said.
Using the United States' democratic system as an example, Castro said the U.S. multi-party democratic system only concentrated power in the hands of the wealthy. He said that while Cuba had only one party, it sought the participation of all citizens through party and workplace meetings. "We must promote democracy in our society, starting with the [one] party, he said, urging rank-and-file members to speak up when they disagree with something."
USAid, however, declares that Cuba "today remains one of the most politically repressed countries in the world. Current Cuban law and practice prevent the right to assemble without the permission of the state, criminalized dissemination of information contrary to the official line, and provide a state monopoly over mass media (the ACN, Cuba's official news agency). Cuba is the only non-democratically-elected government in the Western Hemisphere."
Finally, Castro denounced the 50-year trade embargo of the United States and its support for dissidents and its imprisonment of Cuban agents who had infiltrated anti-Castro groups in Miami. The denouncement may be Raul Castro's way of giving thanks to Cuba's largest source of food and humanitarian aid.