Cuba to outline economic path

CUBA will hold a long-delayed, and much-anticipated, Communist Party Congress in April.

Leaders will use the meeting to chart a new economic future for the island, President Raul Castro announced yesterday.

The congress, which last took place in 1997, is traditionally used to announce major policy changes. It is supposed to be held every five years, but has been delayed repeatedly as Cuba grappled with a change in leadership and a deep economic crisis.

Fidel Castro’s role as party chief might also be discussed at the congress, though Raul Castro made no mention of his brother in the speech.

“The sixth party congress will concentrate on a solution to our economic problems,” he said.

He said the meeting would “make fundamental decisions on how to modernise the Cuban economic model and adopt the paths for economic and social policy of the party and the revolution” and preparations for it would begin immediately.

He added that the summit would deal with every imaginable idea for economic progress, “no matter how sensitive”.

The Cuban leader was joined by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, whose country sends the island billions of dollars worth of oil every year and has become Cuba’s most important patron.

Venezuela’s socialist leader vowed to continue supporting the Cuban revolution both economically and politically, as the two countries reaffirmed for another decade an economic pact first signed in 2000.

Since taking over from his ailing brother in 2006 – first temporarily then permanently – Raul Castro has pursued a series of major economic reforms.

In September, Cuba announced it was laying off 500,000 state workers while opening up new opportunities for citizens to start private businesses.

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