Cuba's Labor Movement Concludes Soul Searching
First Vice President Raul Castro made the closing speech Wednesday evening bringing an end to four days of intense debates and soul searching among Cuban labor leaders from throughout the island, gathered in Havana at the 19th Congress of the Cuban Workers Federation (CTC).
In a highly spirited atmosphere, for nearly a half hour before the final plenary session began, the more than 1,400 delegates sang, chanted slogans in support of the revolution and its top leaders, poked fun at their enemies in Washington, and made it clear that a united Cuban labor movement is ready to face any new challenges.
The event marked a turning point at a time when the island’s economy shifts gears from the lean years of struggle to survive to a period of rapid recovery that many outside observers thought would never happen.
The congress was attended by Cuba’s top government and Communist Party officials who spent long hours simply listening to hundreds of union representatives give their views and criticisms on the serious problems of indiscipline, low productivity and theft at the Cuban workplace and other issues.
To face the tasks of this new era, the CTC Congress elected a new national council and a 17-member secretariat headed by Salvador Valdes Mesa, who replaces Pedro Ross Leal as the CTC general secretary, a post Ross has held for 17 years.
In his customary concise and to the point manner, Raul Castro recognized the outgoing CTC leadership for having navigated the island’s ship through the turbulent waters of the Special Period (era that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union and European Socialist Bloc).
However, he warned that “we can’t ignore the negative mark left by the material limitations and above all some of the measures adopted in the effort for the country to survive.” He noted that President Fidel Castro had clearly outlined the dangers involved in his speech last November at the University of Havana.
“I can say that the causes of an important number of problems and deficiencies are identified and that the CTC and each union has recognized its responsibilities as well as pointing to those corresponding to management,” said Raul Castro.
The first vice president said the topics discussed by the delegates are vital for the future of the country “because as we delve deeper into any of them we discover reserves that haven’t been exploited, deficiencies often coming from a lack of foresight, organization or slackness.”
The Cuban defense minister said the newly elected secretariat has its work cut out for it in the coming year to put the CTC Congress resolutions into practice.
Raul Castro said one of the most difficult challenges ahead is to achieve that the worker feels he/she is the owner of the means of production and act accordingly. That’s where the decisive work of the unions come in, he added.
He also noted that while Cuba deals with its internal problems, its powerful enemy to the North steps up its aggressive plans under the Bush Plan that seeks to destroy the revolution and wipe out the conquests of the Cuban people, won during so many years of struggle.
During the afternoon session Cuban Vice President Carlos Lage told the delegates that their voices had been heard by the government and Communist Party and that their criteria would be studied and acted upon.