Havana: Cuban President Raul Castro rejected rapid privatisation and vowed never to pursue "shock therapy," setting the tone for a Communist Party congress reviewing progress in revamping the island's moribund Soviet-style economy.
"Cuba will never permit the application of so-called shock therapies, which are frequently applied to the detriment of society's most humble classes," he said in a lengthy speech opening the congress, which takes place every five years and will stretch on for several days.
The main political event in a one-party system that brooks no dissent, the congress comes less than a month after US President Barack Obama's historic visit and with Havana normalising ties with the US, its longtime Cold War foe.
But if Cubans and international observers were hoping for a sign of significant political and economic change at the meeting, Castro – the man responsible for setting in motion economic reforms – swiftly signalled otherwise.
"The neoliberal formulas that promote accelerated privatisation of state assets and social services such as education, health and social security will never be applied under Cuban socialism," warned Castro, who formally took over from his ailing brother Fidel in 2008.
Castro, 84, defended the slow pace of change to the island's economy, which has only cautiously and gradually opened up to some private entrepreneurship and foreign investment.
"Private enterprise will evolve within defined limits and will provide a complementary element of the country's economic framework," he added.
He again blamed Washington's more than five-decade-old embargo on the island for its economic impact on Cuba, in remarks broadcast to the country's 11.3 million people on state television.
The US and Cuba are slowly normalising ties, even reopening embassies in each other's capitals, but the trade embargo on Cuba remains.