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Cuba's Communist proposal ignores other voices


Dissidents attack the political system

June 27, 1997
Web posted at: 10:01 p.m. EDT (0201 GMT)

From Havana Bureau Chief Lucia Newman

HAVANA (CNN) -- In workplaces and neighborhoods across Cuba, a crucial Communist Party document is being read to the people.

"For us Cubans, an independent nation, genuine democracy and socialism are inseparable," reads part of the document, issued by the Communists ahead of their October party congress.

The fifth congress, which is meant to set economic and political policy, is a pivotal event in Communist Cuba's political system.

Judging by the document presented as a basis for discussion, Cubans can expect more of the same: a one-party socialist system.

Anyone dreaming of Western-style political reforms can think again, President Fidel Castro said. The Communist Party leader and other officials insist the only basis of discussion is the continuation and defense of Cuba's system.

"This is a kind of mass consultation, a referendum to be discussed in a document debated among all Cubans," said Orestes Perez of the Committee for Defense of the Revolution.

Anti-government group speaks out


But with socialism, revolution and the Communist Party presented as pillars of the system, there's no room for those who want major changes.

A group calling itself the Working Group of Internal Dissidence, which says it has the support of 14 other small groups, called a rare news conference in the small living room of one of its members.

"The ruling party has nothing concrete to offer to prevent the ruin of this nation. Only a peaceful transition towards democracy can save our country from its current crisis," Maria Beatrice Roque told reporters.

Authorities concede the revolution is struggling to survive increased U.S. economic pressure to bring down the regime.

Washington, which maintains an economic embargo against Cuba, is the most aggressive advocate of political change on the island that became a Soviet-backed society after Castro's 1959 revolution.

But perhaps the toughest challenge for the Party Congress, the first in six years, is to confront what officials call the loss of revolutionary values. That's a subtle way of recognizing that after 38 years, more and more once-fervent revolutionaries have had enough.


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