In a dramatic speech to the National Assembly Cuba’s Raul Castro said he wasn’t elected to restore capitalism nor to surrender Socialism but admitted that “too much secrecy and too many lies” had taken the revolution to a critical situation: “either we rectify or we will plunge from the cliff and the efforts of entire generations would be lost”.
During his two-hour long Saturday address Castro reviewed the errors committed in the country by the leadership, criticized the mis-interpretation of Socialism and again announced the draconian plan of reforms which will have to be implemented to save the revolution and strictly complied by the leadership.
The country and its leaders must rectify the errors they have committed because otherwise “our time skirting the cliff will be over and we will destroy the efforts of entire generations” emphasized Castro as the deadline for leaving redundant half a million government employees approached generating a feeling of panic in the streets of the island.
Raul Casrtro said that the “excessive secrecy and lies among the country’s leaders” must come to an end and once and for all “we must remove and not temporarily from their posts all those involved in this kind of little gossip and conspiration”. They must also be expelled from the Communist Party, he added.
The Cuban president said that government’s decisions must be carried out and “not become a dead piece of paper as so often occurred”.
Repeating errors puts “the life of the revolution” at risk he emphasized.
Further on he quoted on several occasion his brother, ex-President and leader of the revolution Fidel Castro, whose “orientations” and “instructions” in economic matters were not carried out or systematically ignored during decades by the cadres of the party.
”We lacked unity, organization and coordination within the party and the government” admitted Castro who did not use the word ‘corruption’ but complained bitterly about “waste, abuse, lies, laziness, job padding and secrecy”.
Castro has admitted the state payrolls are padded with more than one million surplus workers.
He promised that next year’s changes inside the Communist party “would go to the bone”, because the task of “the party is to direct and control, but not interfere in government activities at any level”.
Regarding the economic reforms some of which have been questioned as ‘unconstitutional’ by party members and former officials, particularly sacking a first batch of 500.000 government staff between January and April and who have been stimulated to become tradesmen or hold small businesses, Raul Castro said that the “campaigners of failure” are being received by a “wall of scepticism”.
“I was not elected president to restore capitalism in Cuba nor to surrender the revolution” but to continue perfecting socialism. “Too much of our people’s blood has been spilled to accept the dismantling of what has been won at the cost of so much sacrifice,” he said.
The revolution is fully aware of the errors committed, but the new party guidelines, based on his government’s policy of reforms, point the way to the “Socialist future”.
However in spite of the campaign to promote the reforms Cuban and foreign economists say it’s too much, too fast. Radical leftists are branding Raúl Castro as a capitalist exploiter of workers and – in an odd alignment with Cuban dissidents – are urging workers to fight the job cuts.
One well-known historian and Communist Party member has warned of social chaos, maybe even a mass exodus, and cautioned that the layoffs may be unconstitutional.
Dissident Havana economist Oscar Espinosa Chepe said he does not doubt the layoffs are needed, but argued that Castro is doing it the wrong way.
“He’s doing in a very abrupt, very brutal way, without first creating the proper conditions’’ by waiting until the private sector had begun expanding, said Espinosa.
Former Cuban Deputy Labor Minister Lázaro González Rodríguez wrote in a recent Internet column that while the job cuts are needed, ‘‘what I can’t agree with are the methods, ways and time frame”.
The organization of labour at most state agencies and enterprises have not been studied for years, González argued, so the decisions on how many employees will be laid off at each workplace “are not the result of a technical study.”
Meantime workers desperately trying to keep their jobs are accusing others of corruption. And some blacks and women are warning that those sectors may be hardest hit by the job cuts.
But Castro’s reforms not only means turning government staff and bureaucrats into small entrepreneurs, he is also cutting back other public spending and subsidies including food rations and rents.