Havana : Cuba will continue with a single party system with wider scope to accommodate dissent and differences of opinion, acting President Raul Castro has said even as rights groups point out scores of dissidents are still in jail.
“If we have a single party and that represents the interests of all the people, it’s good,” Castro was quoted as saying Tuesday by Spain’s EFE news agency Wednesday.
Raul cited the nationwide debate he set in motion in July to seek public reaction to various issues of governance and said the government’s receptivity to the divergent opinion expressed was proof of the party’s and the government’s tolerance of dissent.
However, rights groups have said respect for human rights has not improved in Cuba under interim leader Raul Castro. They claim that nearly 250 political prisoners are still in Cuban jails, whom the authorities describe as mercenaries in the pay of the US.
But, according to the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and Reconciliation, several dozen political prisoners have been freed since Raul stepped in some 16 months ago when his elder brother Fidel was stricken with a serious intestinal illness.
The acting president said his government has taken in all the comments, “the just and the unjust”, stressing that the forums at workplaces and universities, among other venues, represent “a form of democracy, a form of participation by the whole population”.
Raul launched the dialogue with a July 26 speech embracing the idea of structural change to revitalise the economy of the communist-ruled island.
He said the Cuban system is not perfect and that it must become more democratic.
At the same time, he defended Cuba’s one-party elections by insisting that differences between Republicans and Democrats in the United States are as insignificant as the disagreements he has with Fidel Castro.
Cuba will be holding elections to the National Assembly Jan 20, which, in turn, will elect the 31 members of the Council of State, the country’s most powerful body.
The acting president has already been named a candidate from the eastern city of Santiago de Cuba for the parliamentary elections.