CIEGO DE AVILA, Cuba, (Reuters) – Cuba is pressing ahead with plans to revamp its economy and fine tune its one party political system, but it will take time, Vice President Jose Ramon Machado Ventura said yesterday in a nationally televised address.
His remarks came on one of the biggest days of Cuba’s political calendar. The communist-ruled island was marking the anniversary of the 1953 attack led by Fidel Castro on the Moncada army barracks in the city of Santiago de Cuba that started the Cuban Revolution.
Machado’s speech was the first by a top Cuban leader since April, when a Communist Party Congress approved a comprehensive plan to move the Soviet-style economic system in a more market-oriented direction and allow Cubans more personal freedoms.
The plan would create a large “non-state” sector in agriculture, retail services, construction and transportation in a land where the government has monopolized all economic activity.
The Cuban state would also move from subsidizing just about everything to targeted welfare and loosen its grip on state companies.
President Raul Castro announced at the April Congress plans to establish term limits and in other ways try to improve the political system.
“You can be sure we are going forward without haste or pause, working systematically and in an coordinated fashion,” Machado said in the central province of Ciego de Avila, where festivities for “The Day of the Rebel” were held.Cubans are pressing for quick adoption of measures allowing them to buy and sell homes and cars for the first time in 50 years and improving food production and distribution, but not others that would eliminate gratuities such as a food ration and cut the state labor force by 20 percent.
But Machado urged patience due to the long-term implications of reform. “We are not taking half measures nor improvising, but looking for definitive solutions to old problems,” he said.
Machado, 81, repeatedly called on Cubans to work harder and in a more organized manner to overcome the economic crisis gripping the country.
He also urged workers and administrators to eliminate “labor and social indiscipline, deficient accounting, poor use of resources and bureaucratic attitudes,” among other ills affecting economic activity. “The mentality of doing nothing, of waiting for something to come down from above, has to be definitively broken,” he said, apparently referring to the bureaucratic malaise affecting the country.