Cuban parliamentary delegation headed by the senior parliamentary leader and politician, Yolanda Ferrer Gomez, president of the International Relation Commission of the National Assembly and consisting of Lazaro Barredo Medina, member of the International Relation Commission of the National Assembly, Surina Acosta Brooks, member of the International Relation Commission of the National Assembly, in charge of youth and children and the rights for women and Dr Jesus Rafael Mora Gonzalez, official of the International Relation Commission of the National Assembly had visited India in March. During the course of their visit, they visited the headquarters of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and had discussions. The following is the interview given to the People's Democracy.
PD: The 7th Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC) had adopted important documents on the socio-economic model for Cuba and a path of development till 2030. Can you explain the important features of these documents?
Ans: The 7th Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba was held in April 2016 and discussed and approved numerous strategic documents that define the political, economic, social and party course for the coming years.
In the case of party work, numerous decisions were made that are in full implementation, such as: limiting the election to fundamental political and state positions to a maximum of two consecutive periods of five years each, based on their performance; limit the membership age to Central Committee to 60 years and up to 70 years for Polit bureau members in order to ensure constant renewal. It was also agreed to readjust the 40 year old Constitution of the Republic, in order to meet the new changes that the country has undergone.
At the economic and social level, the National Social-Economic Development Plan 2030, includes the establishment of six strategic axes for the country's development, namely effective and socialist government and social integration; productive transformation and international insertion; infrastructure; development of human potential, science, technology and innovations; work on national resources and environment, and finally human development, justice and equity.
Efforts have been made to transform the energy matrix through utilisation of renewable sources and other national energy resources.
Some progress has been made in external financial equilibrium through the negotiation and payment of external debt, as well as boost to foreign direct investment. This process has been accelerated since the creation of the Mariel Economic Development Zone, the enactment of a new Foreign Investment Law and the issuance of Business Opportunities Portfolios for Investment and Business in Cuba.
Progress has also been made in strengthening the socialist State enterprise, which is the main form of economic management, accompanied by other forms of economic management.
The country has been taking measures to meet the challenge of high rate of aging Cuban population, which represents a strategic problem for the future development of the country.
In the field of tourism, one of the main sources of resources, Cuba has managed to exceed the number of four million foreign tourists received till the end of 2016.
Regarding the conceptualisation of the Cuban Social and Economic Development Model, which is one of the main futurist projection documents, I can say it reflects that Cuba is in the historical stage of socialist construction and that it constitutes a complex and long process of profound transformations, based on the concept that socialism is a society of equal opportunities for all, and with social justice.
The guidelines for the Economic and Social Policy of the Party and the Revolution, approved in the 6th Congress of the Party in 2011, constitutes the main basis for the conceptualisation of the model. It ratifies that the efficient performance of the economy is the basis for the realisation of material sustenance that allows the distribution of socially fair wealth. Our goal is to build a prosperous and sustainable socialist society.
Another conceptual element of the Cuban model of social policy is to guarantee free access to basic social services, education, health, culture, sports, social security and social assistance to all.
PD: The Congress decided to adopt these documents and take them to the people for their opinions before the Central Committee finally adopts them. How far has this process been implemented and what are the experiences?
Ans: Effectively, as of September 20, 2016, the two strategic documents analysed in the Seventh Congress of the Party – the Basis for the National Economic-Social Development Plan until 2030, and the Conceptualisation of the Social Economic Model for Socialist Development – have been debated by more than two million Cubans. Tens of thousands of opinions and suggestions are collected that are currently analysed by the Central Committee of the Party for final approval. Also as a result of these collective discussions, a draft Electoral Law and the amendments to Constitution of the Republic are being drafted by the National Assembly of People's Power, which will also be subject to debate among the people and a plebiscite.
The experiences have been positive and an attempt has been made to collect all valid opinions. Prior to this process, intensive work was done so that each Cuban had in print the documents that have been discussed.
PD: How is popular democracy practiced in Cuba? How are people involved/consulted before taking important policy decisions?
Ans: Democracy has been given many names in the world, but democracy is where people participate in the most important political decisions of society. In Cuba there is a principle that has been implemented since the first years of participatory democracy (1976), which consists of discussing precisely any transcendental document with the people.
We have several variants of participation in our system, such as:
a) the popular consultations on the main laws, such as recently the Consultation of the Labour Code;
b) another variant is through the Accountability Assemblies of the base delegates (neighbourhoods or communities) before their voters and before the organs of People's Power at the level of communities and municipalities. The purpose is to expose important issues of the neighbours, and within the existing material possibilities, address their concerns;
c) the assembly processes of the organisations of the Cuban civil society, which constitute the majority of the organised population.
PD: How important are elections and representative bodies in taking decisions and implementing them?
Ans: Elections are important because it is one of the ways for people to express their opinions. In Cuba, neighbours propose the candidates and it is the neighbourhoods with their own neighbours that nominate their candidates for the election of the legislative positions to different levels. Each constituency has the possibility of having up to eight candidates, submitting them to a vote and the one who achieves 50 percent +1 votes, is elected candidate for the base delegate of that constituency.
In Cuba we have 12,752 delegates-councilors (at municipalities). In our concept, the National Parliament has to integrate 50 percent of the deputies directly from the base. The proportion of deputy election is one per 20,000 inhabitants.
A constitutional reform is being organised now, which, among other ideas, aims to reduce the number of municipalities and give more authority to local governments. All this is contemplated in the revision of our political system.
PD: Can you share with us details about the electoral process?
Ans: The Cuban electoral system is governed by some characteristic principles. Among them the most outstanding are:
• The Communist Party of Cuba, being the only party of the Cuban Nation, does not propose or nominate or support any candidate. The people have the power to propose and nominate them.
• Registration of voters is automatic, public and free.
• Election propaganda is the exclusive power of the National Electoral Commission. No candidate can campaign in his favour.
• To be elected, candidates from all levels need to obtain more than half the number of valid votes cast.
• Polling stations and ballot boxes are symbolically cared for by students in Primary and Secondary Education.
• The counting of the votes of the Electoral Tables is carried out publicly and neighbours and foreigners who live or are visiting the country can participate.
• The elected do not receive any economic reimbursement.
• Voting is not mandatory, it is free and secret. All Cubans over 16 years of age have the right to vote and those over 18 years old to be elected.
• In the Republic of Cuba, sovereignty resides in the people, from whom the State derives all its power. This power is exercised directly or through the assemblies of popular power and other organs of the State.
• According to Article 5 of the Constitution of the Republic, the Communist Party of Cuba is the leading force of society and the State.
• The organs of the State are integrated and develop their activity on the basis of the principles of socialist democracy consisting of:
* The masses control the activity of State organs, deputies, delegates and officials.
* Those elected have a duty to account for their performance and may be revoked from office at any time.
• In Cuba general elections are held every five years and the members of the National Assembly of People's Power elect its president, vice president and secretary; also the State Council is elected by the delegates to the provincial and municipal assemblies. The partial elections that take place every two and a half years choose the delegates of the municipal assemblies that are the base delegates.
• The Council of State is the body that appoints the Electoral Commission, which in turn creates the National Commission of Candidature, consisting of mass and social organisations.
PD: Raul Castro stated that he will retire from presidency in 2018. What will be the alternative arrangement?
Ans: Cuba has been working for some years in a gradual way so that the transition of main responsibilities to the new generations of Cubans, of government, State, and the Party is carried out in an orderly way. It is a process of special transition, where the historical generations that made and led the revolution have been giving their jobs to younger generations. This process is running and should conclude definitively with the celebration of the 8th PCC Congress in 2021 and with the election of a new Party Directorate.
Before February 24, 2018, there must be changes in the greater responsibilities of the State and government, after the election of the new National Assembly of People's Power, coinciding with the conclusion of the current 8th Legislature of the Parliament and the beginning of the 9th Legislature. In this context, the president of the Council of State and Ministers of the Republic of Cuba, General of the Army Raúl Castro Ruz, must resign his State offices.
The alternative for positions of greater responsibility will, of course, be the result of the people's decision in the elections.
As you will see, a political process cannot depend only on the existence of a person, but all decisions must be collective because Cuba defends the concept of collective work. Man is an important factor. In our case the main thing is that this collective management defends independence and sovereignty, which is only possible under socialism. Independence plus social justice will always be linked to socialism, because in capitalism there is no social justice.
PD: Fidel Castro passed away recently. Raul Castro states he will retire in a year. Trump is now the president of US and US was always waiting for these two brothers to move away from the leadership, hoping for a change in the socio-economic system in Cuba. In this context, what are the challenges before Cuba and how does it plan to overcome them?
Ans: The challenges that Cuba will have to face are the result of the changing international situation, the presence of a neighbour with whom we now maintain diplomatic relations, but these links will have to be normalised on the basis of eliminating the economic embargo that still persists and to return to the Cuban people the naval base of Guantánamo, an illegally occupied territory.
Cuba is obliged to strengthen its own political organisation and to maintain the consensus and participation of all as its foundation. It must seek its own specific solutions, based on guaranteeing socialism, regardless of the existence or not of the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by more than 55 years of North American administrations.
One of the values that Cubans have is their own history, from the very moment when the struggle against Spanish colonialism began in the nineteenth century.
PD: How does Cuba view the present changes in Latin America?
Ans: After several years of revolutionary, progressive and Leftist governments in Latin America and Caribbean region, our continent is under the influence of a strong imperialist counter-offensive together with national oligarchies against progressive governments, in the background of a marked slowdown of the economy that has a negative impact on the continuity of welfare policies and social inclusion and the achievements of the popular sectors.
Undoubtedly, the early death of the leader of the Bolivarian Revolution of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez, has complicated the internal situation in that country.
This reactionary attack, uses methods and technologies of the new doctrine of unconventional warfare, especially in the field of communications and culture, without ruling out destabilisation and coups, such as the one they are carrying out against the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Today defending Venezuela and the legitimate government of Nicolas Maduro, is to defend the dignity of Latin America and the Caribbean. The regional political consensus reached within the framework of CELAC, which governs the principle of unity in the midst of diversity is strategic, because united we are strong, and divided each country by itself, it is impossible to face the intervention of the northern neighbour.