Exactly 60 years ago today, when the CIA-led invasion force approached the Bay of Pigs, Fidel Castro declared Cuba a socialist state. “What the imperialists cannot forgive is that we are here,” Castro said in a speech full of anger and pride at the funeral of 11 Air Force personnel killed during the preliminary air strikes on April 15, 1961. Forgive: the fact that we’re right here under their noses, ”he said in front of thousands of spectators as he rallied the country to fight the impending invasion. “And that we carried out a socialist revolution right under the nose of the United States!”
This was Castro’s first public proclamation of Cuba’s ideological direction as his country was in imminent danger of US aggression. As such, the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC) has identified April 16, 1961 as its symbolic date of origin. The last party congresses are planned for the anniversary of the invasion and combine the ideology of the revolution with the victory of David against Goliath over the exile brigade of the CIA in Bahia de Cochinos. Just as the Bay of Pigs marked a historic turning point for the young revolution, the 8th Party Congress, which will meet this weekend, is another important point for the future of Cuba.
At the top of the agenda, the PCC will look at how Cuba can recover from its pandemic-induced economic slowdown. In this crisis, the Politburo and party cadre will also bid farewell to their first secretary, Raúl Castro. As he nears 90 years, Castro gives up his powerful position as party leader. His resignation marks the official end of the Castro era – and an opportunity for the Biden administration to reconsider six decades of US hostility towards Cuba.
W.What the post-Castro era means is the subject of intense speculation – on the island and in the international community. “This will be the Congress of Continuity,” signaled the PCC’s official meeting on the change in leadership, “expressed in the gradual and orderly transition of the main responsibility of the country to new generations.”
But many Cubans, who are experiencing the most desperate economic situation since the collapse of the Soviet Union, seem less interested in continuity than in change. Like so many countries hit by the coronavirus, Cuba’s economy has contracted sharply – by an estimated 11 percent. The shortage of oil, food and basic goods is widespread. Inflation is widespread. Under Miguel Díaz-Canel, who took over as President from Raúl Castro in 2018 and is now expected to serve as the PCC’s first secretary, the government has received high marks for public health management during the pandemic and for developing several vaccines these are now in final attempts. However, calls for bold reforms to revitalize Cuba’s dying economy, expressed in the island’s relatively new social media phenomenon, are growing louder.
When he resigns, Raúl Castro leaves a legacy of provisional reforms. When Raúl Castro succeeded his sick older brother in July 2006, he initiated an attempt to bring Cuba into the modern, globalized world. Cuba, he said, would reform “sin prisa pero sin pausa“- in no hurry, but without a break. Castro hesitantly opened the state-monopolized economy to small private sector entrepreneurship and drew up a list of 120 approved workspaces for which Cubans could obtain self-employment licenses. In order to create incentives for food production, Castro allowed farmers to sell part of their crops in private markets, lifted restrictions on cell phone ownership, expanded Internet access, allowed Cubans to buy and sell houses, and even authorized French automaker Peugeot to set up a dealership in Havana for opening up the few Cubans who could afford a new car.While there has been a clear departure from Fidel’s far more orthodox approach to a state-controlled, centralized economy, the progress of these reforms has been limited and hampered by party struggles and bureaucratic opposition ert.