Miami's Hardcore Castro Foes Won't be Watching Party Congress

While much of the world will be focusing on Cuba's Communist Party Congress when it kicks off on the island Saturday, one group seems to care less what happens during what is being billed as a turning point for the totalitarian regime.

At Versailles Restaurant on Calle Ocho, ground zero for Miami's anti-Castro movement, the old warriors against communism said they won't be following the gathering expected to encourage private enterprise and drastically cut back on state spending.

"Nothing will happen," said Manuel Martinez, who left Cuba as a young adult 50 years ago. "It's already been decided. The blacks will still be left without representation, the big shots will remain in charge, the poverty will continue, and the dictatorship will go on."

Dr. Alfredo Garcia Menocal, a member of El Congreso del Presidio Politico Cubano, an ant-Castro group, will also ignore the first Congress held by the communist party in 14 years.

"The same thing has been happening for 50 years," Monocal said. "You can't believe anything they say. It's all a pantomime. As long as the Castros are in charge, there will be no changes."

During the four-day Congress, party leaders are expected to approve a set of 291 "guidelines" they hope will help the communist island steer away from what leader Raul Castro has called "the edge of the abyss.''

Among the guidelines are massive cuts to state spending, including laying off more than 1.5 million public employees over three years. The plan also calls for spurring the economy by opening up to foreign investors, making state enterprises more autonomous, and allowing small private businesses to operate.

But the exiled Cubans who have been fighting to topple the Castro regime for half a century are not impressed.

"The people don't talk about the Congress here," said the editor of a small Cuban paper who asked to remain anonymous. "It's shit. It's propaganda."

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