More than 800 delegates of the Communist Party of Cuba met in Havana Jan. 28-29 to discuss an overhaul of the party, and agreed to term limits for party and government positions, but stopped short of introducing a multi-party system.
The delegates, which represent some 800,000 party members, said they would limit party and government officials to two five-year terms.
Additionally, the Communist Party of Cuba’s Central Committee must replace one-fifth of its 114 members over the next four years. Delegates at the meeting said this would allow younger cadres to replace some of the older leaders who are more than 70 years old.
“We don’t yet have a reserve of experienced and mature substitutes for them to assume complex functions for the party, the state and the government,” said President Raúl Castro. “The training of new leaders is part of an important strategy for the revolution in which we will work on gradually and non-stop.”
The summit was a continuation of the 6th Congress of the party held last April that, according to Castro, sought to guarantee that the island’s communist system continues.
Still, Castro rejected the possibility of a multi-party system, saying the single party is a “Cubans’ strategic weapon of unity.”
“We defend the single-party system in the face of demagoguery and commercialization of politics,” said the 80-year-old Castro.
The delegates also debated issues such as corruption and discrimination based on race, gender, religion and sexual orientation, but seemingly overall human rights were not included.
A week before the conference, Wilmar Villar, declared a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International, died 56 days after starting a hunger strike.
Villar was arrested on Nov. 14 along with other members of the dissident Patriotic Cuban Union, for participating in a protest against the government. Ten days later Villar was sentenced to four years in prison for “contempt, resistance and assault”, which Villar considered unjust.
The 31-year-old Villar is the second prisoner of conscience to have died while imprisoned in Cuba. Orlando Zapata died on Feb. 23, 2010 after 85 days of a hunger strike. He had been detained in March 2003 during the operation Black Spring, in which 75 government dissidents were arrested and sentenced behind closed doors in a hearing that lasted less than a day.