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Cuba’s Communist Party Congress: Cringing With Embarrassment

Cuba’s Communist Party Congress: Cringing With Embarrassment
April 18, 2016
Isbel Díaz Torres

HAVANA TIMES – Listening to read a long report for
over two hours at the opening of the 7th Congress of the Cuban Communist
Party (PCC) made me cringe with embarrassment, as they say.

Of course, any feelings evoked by this leader will always be somewhat
“foreign” to me, in the sense that I didn’t vote for his government (not
for any of its structures, at any level) and I, like the immense
majority of the people, am not a member of the PCC. I am referring to
something else.

To have to hear a person who occupies such a high position in Cuba’s
politico-military hierarchy express himself the way he did,
demonstrating a serious lack of knowledge and scant diplomatic skills,
to have to hear things that would make even the most simple-minded Cuban
student laugh at this stage in the game, is, at best, maddening.

I wonder how those present at the Havana Convention Center felt on
seeing that the great leader (I don’t know whether the title suits him)
knows absolutely nothing about . Playing the fool at the
recent press conference with Obama was apparently not enough. His
advisors did not prepare him and he again stuck his foot in it.

Raul Castro claims that Cuba respects all 44 human rights. Someone in
the auditorium corrected him and explained to him there aren’t 44 human
rights, but 44 international instruments (including conventions, pacts
and protocols) that Cuba has signed. So the great leader says that Cuba
fulfills 44 international instruments, while the United States only 18!
It’s almost as though he were referring to a baseball game.

Is this man aware that signing and fulfilling an instrument are
different things? Does Raul Castro actually know what instruments his
country has signed? Does he know how many it has ratified? Does he know
that the International Pact on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
(which Cuba signed but did not ratify) envisages the right to strike and
for trade unions? Does he know what any of that means?

I don’t want to portray myself as a great champion of human rights, but,
if the guy’s going to talk about the subject, one would expect someone
would have at least told him what it was more or less about, so he
wouldn’t end up looking so bad.

Well, someone did advise him, actually. Before he made a fool of himself
again, they passed him a note that read: “we’re live.” But Raul Castro
took no notice of this and jumped head first into the precipice, to be
met with the shameful applause of all the delegates.

Though it is true that finding a president who knows a lot about human
rights is difficult, at least other presidents make sure they have
advisors who help them lie efficiently in front of the cameras. Cuba’s
president, however, is an embarrassment. And Raul Castro charges again
to speak about and and refer to an immense list of
human rights guaranteed in Cuba (it is always a list they allude to and
we always end up wanting to know what “other” rights they are talking
about).

The most he could do was include a new right someone told him about:
wage equality for men and women with equal positions. That said, I am
not sure a secretary at a earns the same as a secretary at a
joint venture in the sector.

They are both Cuban workers, but, quite probably, the school secretary
works more and earns less.

To have told Raul Castro of first, second and third generation human
rights would have been too much for the gentleman and, this time around,
he didn’t have headsets he could put on and take off, to make people
believe he couldn’t hear too well.

I am also embarrassed by the fact those who work at the Foreign
Ministry, those who pour over documents in air-conditioned offices to
find the right rhetorical twist to this whole business, can say, for
instance, that Cuba and the United States “do not have the same
conceptions about human rights.”

This is not entirely exact, either, as Cuba and the United States share,
among other things, in the decision not to sign the Second Optional
Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,
aimed at the abolition of the death penalty, to mention one example. I
must excuse myself and say that this is but a brief, marginal comment,
not an exhaustive analysis of the PCC congress report. As for
interesting aspects of Raul Castro’s address, there are only a few that
are worth mentioning:

– Before the Congress they spoke at length about the “conceptualization
of the model,” and, as it turns out, it won’t be presented at the
Congress. It will be approved directly by the PCC Central Committee
after they’ve debated it. The centralized and anti-democratic mechanisms
are still firmly in place.

– Cuba will continue to be ruled by one, legally-acknowledged party.

– The new constitution will continue to conceive of the PCC as the
country’s highest authority and to maintain the irrevocable nature of
Cuban socialism.

– The two, five-year term restriction will be applied, not only to the
president, but to all other important government offices, and some
limitations with respect to age will be applied. Ten years of doing
things poorly seems like a lot, but a whole lot better than 50.

These decisions, to be sure, are not to be made by the Congress. They
have already been made by the high leadership, by that dark fringe of
real power in Cuba, shared by a handful of people at the top.

So, I lower my head in shame, also, before international left-wing
solidarity brigades that, in their own countries, struggle against
rising prices, an increase in retirement age, the criminalization
of protests and for human rights. In a few days’ time, we’ll see them
crowd at Havana’s Revolution Square where, as in a circus, they will see
Cuban workers parade with glee to celebrate another May Day, “more
united than ever.”

Source: Cuba’s Communist Party Congress: Cringing With Embarrassment –
Havana Times.org – www.havanatimes.org/?p=118204

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