June 1, 2017 / 3:06 PM / 6 months ago

Cuban parliament approves Communist Party roadmap

HAVANA (Reuters) - With less than a year until Raul Castro steps down as president, Cuba’s parliament approved documents on Thursday confirming the Communist Party as the country’s guiding force and banning the concentration of private property and wealth.

Cuba's President Raul Castro (L, front) gestures while standing next to First Vice-President Miguel Diaz-Canel (R) during an extraordinary session of the National Assembly, in Havana, Cuba June 1, 2017. ACN/Marcelino Vazquez/Handout via REUTERS

The national assembly was summoned for an extraordinary session to approve Communist Party documents reaffirming the one-party political system and state domination of the socialist economy, even as the Caribbean island allows some private business and foreign investment. The ratification by assembly deputies was unanimous, as is usually the case after some discussion.

The meeting was called as U.S. President Donald Trump considers rolling back the U.S.-Cuban detente launched under his predecessor, Barack Obama, due to what he charges is a lack of democracy and respect for human rights in Cuba.

While the documents were drafted before Trump’s election last November, their approval sent a clear message that Cuba will not make the political and economic concessions that Trump has demanded.

“These documents reaffirm the socialist character of the Revolution ... and role of the Party as the highest leading force of the society and state,” the state-run Cuban News Agency quoted Castro as saying during closing remarks.

The meeting was closed to foreign journalists.

The documents resulted from last year’s Communist Party Congress and include a theoretical justification for ongoing efforts to loosen up the Soviet-style command economy and a “national plan for economic and social development until 2030.”

The theory document cites as guiding lights Cuban independence leader Jose Marti; communists Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin; and Fidel Castro, the late president who led Cuba’s 1959 revolution.

The documents make some reference to the incipient private sector, such as family firms, but also stress the means of production and most farm land as “property of the whole people” through the state.

Cuba’s economy is currently staving off a crisis as a tourism boom that followed the 2014 deal between Castro and Obama to improve relations fails to offset declining shipments of bartered fuel from key socialist ally Venezuela and a drop in exports.

Critics say the government should bolster growth by carrying out more reforms, while hardliners who distrust market economics and any change that would lessen their hold on power balk at that.

Castro, who took over the presidency in 2008 from his ailing brother Fidel Castro, has vowed to step down as president next February and as head of the Communist Party by 2021.

First Vice-President Miguel Diaz-Canel, 57, is seen as the heir apparent.

Castro, 85, said last year that those who fought in the revolution and who remain in Party and government positions would all leave office over a five-year period.

However, Cuban authorities have been at pains to highlight at every opportunity that the revolution will not end with the deaths of the “historic generation” or the handover of power.

Editing by Frances Kerry

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