As Cuban economy slides, government postpones summit

Reeling from global and domestic economic crises, the Cuban government announced Friday that it planned to postpone an important Communist Party conference to chart the island's economic future.

The decision — announced on the third anniversary of Raul Castro's rise to the presidency &mdash was further evidence that Cuba's moribund economy is in a free fall and that its leaders have yet to figure out how to stop the slide, experts familiar with the island's economy said Friday.

Cuba's Communist Party has not held its congress since 1997. The sixth party convention was supposed to be held later this year in a quest to chart the country's political and economic future without the presence of Fidel Castro, who fell ill three years ago.

But the Cuban government newspaper Granma announced Friday that a grim financial picture forced a postponement. Reporting from a joint meeting of the Council of Ministers and the Communist Party's central committee, the paper also said Economy and Planning Minister Marino Murillo Jorge had lowered economic growth projections from 2.5 percent to 1.7 percent.

The next party congress will likely be his last and must be done properly, Raúl Castro was quoted as saying. The gathering is normally held every five or six years.

"Because of the laws of life, this will be the last (congress) led by the historic leadership of the revolution," Raul Castro said.

Cuba experts gathered Friday at the downtown Miami Hilton Hotel for the Association of the Study of the Cuban Economy said putting off the party congress was a significant decision that showed trouble ahead for Cuba.

The months ahead, they said, could rival the early 1990s, which saw long lines and bare shelves as the economy imploded in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union.


Related stories from McClatchy DC