Cuba’s struggle toward a more efficient economy continues “without a truce” but its advances remain meager, Vice President José Ramón Machado Ventura said Tuesday on the anniversary of the birth of the Castro revolution.

Proposed economic reforms still face “labor indiscipline” and a bureaucracy that generates “indolence” and “absurd procedures that have nothing to do with socialism,” Machado Ventura declared at the July 26 celebrations in Ciego de Avila.

Cuban ruler Raúl Castro attended the ceremony but for the second time in two years did not address the crowd of several thousand. He has recently made key speeches only to government institutions such as the legislature, rather than to street crowds.

Instead, Machado Ventura’s 2,300-word speech essentially repeated Castro’s calls for ambitious reforms to rescue an economy stuck in the doldrums since 2008, when three hurricanes devastated Cuba and the world plunged into a financial crisis.

Cuba is fighting “daily and without a truce against our own errors and deficiencies,” he declared. “The government is “moving like we’ve said, without hurry but without pause … to preserve socialism. We are not using patches or improvising. We are looking for definitive solutions to old problems.”

But what has been achieved so far “is far from the potential,” added the 80-year-old vice president, urging Cubans to work harder and with more discipline to ensure the reforms succeed.

“To ask more of the Cuban people without first meeting their basic needs will be a tremendous challenge for Raúl’s government,” said Andy Gomez, senior fellow at the University of Miami’s Institute for Cuban and Cuban American Studies.

Former Cuban ruler Fidel Castro often used the July 26 celebrations to make important announcements until he surrendered power to brother Raúl after a health emergency in 2006. The younger Castro made his first call for significant reforms when he addressed the event in 2007.

Raúl Castro’s proposed reforms — slashing state subsidies and payrolls and allowing more small-scale private enterprise, autonomy for state enterprises and foreign investments — were endorsed in broad form by the full Communist Party in April.

More than 300,000 Cubans already have taken out new licenses for mini-businesses, like restaurants and barber shops, and Castro has proposed vastly expanding the legal ability of Cubans to buy and sell homes and cars.

But some of the reforms have hit significant snags.

A campaign to link state salaries to productivity, announced more than two years ago, appears to have been put on ice. A plan to fire 500,000 state workers in the first three months of this year has a new timetable that is clearly lower but not yet public.

Machado Ventura himself acknowledged that the “strategic” campaign to increase domestic food production by leasing fallow state lands to private farmers, launched more than two years ago, remains hampered by “deficiencies” and “weaknesses.”

Raúl Castro is expected to review the status of the reforms campaign, and perhaps announce new proposals, when he presides over the next meeting of the legislative National Assembly of People’s Power, set for early next month.

Machado Ventura also noted that the Central Committee of the Communist Party — its most powerful body after the Political Bureau – would be meeting “in coming days” to discuss the reform process.

Endorsements of the reforms by the National Assembly and the Central Committee would give Castro — regarded as far more respectful of Cuban government institutions than brother Fidel – yet another powerful green light to push ahead with the changes.

Tuesday’s ceremony marked the 58th anniversary of the 1953 attack by the Castro brothers and their followers on an army base in the eastern city of Santiago. The attack failed but is marked in Cuba as the birth of the revolution that toppled dictator Fulgencio Batista in 1959.

Fidel Castro, who will turn 85 on Aug. 13, has not attended any of the July 26 ceremonies since 2006.



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