Cuba's Communists urge more orthodoxy or else Harsh punishment awaits those who fail to heed call

March 31, 1996|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

HAVANA, Cuba -- Warning of what it described as a campaign by the United States to "deceive, confuse and dismantle" the Cuban revolution, the Cuban Communist Party has called for greater ideological and economic orthodoxy, threatening "severe punishment" for those who fail to comply.

Party leaders also sharply criticized features of the limited opening of the economy in the last three years that has rescued the Cuban economy from the brink of collapse, demanding increased self-reliance and discipline instead.

The party's Central Committee endorsed a harder political line at a closed meeting earlier this month.

Reports of the session only began to emerge last week.

The actions come at a moment when relations between Cuba and the United States are unusually tense, the result of the Feb. 24 episode in which the Cuban air force shot down two light planes belonging to a Miami-based Cuban exile group.

In retaliation, President Clinton signed the Helms-Burton Act, which intensifies and extends the long-standing U.S. economic embargo against Cuba.

Ordinary Cubans, dissidents and foreign diplomats have expressed concern at the tone of the documents emerging from the party meeting, saying that they augur a period of increased repression and retrenchment.

In a report to the party conference published last week in Granma, the official newspaper of the Cuban Communist Party, Defense Minister Raul Castro, the country's second-most-powerful figure, argued that Cuba must at all costs avoid reforms of the type that "undermined the Soviet Union and other socialist countries."

Self-employed workers and intellectuals here are being used by Cuba's enemies, he complained, to weaken the authority of the party and the state and must be brought back into line.

Ricardo Alarcon, the speaker of Cuba's Parliament, stated during an interview that the Central Committee session was to be followed by "thousands of meetings throughout the country to discuss this report" in workplaces and schools.

The Helms-Burton Act will be a focus of discussion, he said, and he predicted that the strengthening of the U.S. sanctions against Cuba would be especially useful in motivating young people, whose ideological commitment to the Cuban revolution has flagged considerably in recent years.

Other Cuban officials said the call for ideological orthodoxy reflected a "renewed confidence" resulting from a successful sugar harvest and predictions that the Cuban economy would grow by 5 percent this year after contracting by one-third since 1989.

Pub Date: 3/31/96

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