Where have I heard this before?

If all the ridiculous hype surrounding the 6th Cuban Communist Party Congress sounds familiar, that is because we have heard it all before.

The Herald’s Frances Robles:

Communist Party Time Warp

It’s one of those things that happens when you cover Cuba: you are researching a story and find one just like the one you are preparing… Except it was written in 1986. This one was by Sam Dillon, now an education writer at the New York Times.

DRAMATIC CHANGES ARE SWEEPING CUBA AS PARTY CONVENE

SAM DILLON Herald Staff Writer

“Revolution in the revolution” overstates the case, but Cuba is undergoing significant, perhaps watershed change, as President Fidel Castro convenes his Communist Party’s Third Congress here today.

Fresh breezes have been blowing across the revolutionary island for over a year, as Castro has courted Cuba’s Roman Catholic hierarchy, relaxed Stalinist cultural restrictions, permitted Cubans to own their own homes and cajoled many of his one-time enemies across Latin America into new friendships.

Equally dramatic has been Castro’s reorganization of Cuban leadership. He has replaced at least 11 high officers, including the interior, transportation, health and planning ministers.

Influencing the political developments have been Castro’s attempts to revamp Cuba’s economy, to carry out what one year ago Castro called a “revolution in our economic conceptions.”

Cuba needs to boost exports to the West — while reducing imports and inefficiency. To this end, the recent changes appear to be a cohesive effort to loosen Cuban society, to fight the dogmatism and rigidity that has made Cuba frustrating for its workers, unattractive to foreigners and an increasing drain on the Soviet Union.

That is the political and economic context in which this week’s four-day party congress will develop, diplomats said in interviews here last week.

The congress brings nearly 2,000 party militants to Havana’s convention center for the Cuban Communist version of national elections. Earlier congresses in 1975 and 1980 merely rubber-stamped Castro’s hand-picked leadership. Whether this congress would extend the recent shake-up was unclear, diplomats said. The sessions are closed.

Recently Castro has stepped outside of traditional Communist structures, surrounding himself with a team of personal economic advisers headed by politburo member Osmani Cienfuegos.

Diplomats said Castro’s advisers may be in disagreement about how to put his demands for economic reform into practice. The contention appears to explain delays in the scheduling of the congress, originally to convene in early December. Now there are suggestions that the congress may not finally approve its most important policy documents until later this year.”

In an appearance perhaps aimed at quashing the rumors of party divisions, Ramiro Valdes, the steely-eyed, silver-haired former interior minister whom Castro replaced in December, sat at Castro’s right hand.

So of course, what could I do except incorporate this break in the space-time continuum into a news story. Read more about the history of these party congresses. Enjoy.

-Frances Robles

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