• Monday, Jan 24, 2022
  • Last Update : 03:32 am

Castro era in Cuba to end as Raul confirms he's retiring

  • Published at 10:23 am April 17th, 2021
Raul Castro Cuba
Picture released by Cuban News Agency (ACN) of Cuban First Secretary of the Communist Party Raul Castro speaking during the opening session of the 8th Congress of the Cuban Communist Party at the Convention Palace in Havana, on April 16, 2021 AFP

The transition comes as Cuba faces the worst economic crisis since the collapse of former benefactor the Soviet Union

Raul Castro confirmed he was handing over the leadership of the Cuban Communist Party to a younger generation at its congress that kicked off on Friday, ending six decades of rule by himself and older brother Fidel.

In a speech opening the four-day event, Castro, 89, said the new leadership would be party loyalists with decades of experience working their way up the ranks and were "full of passion and anti-imperialist spirit."

Castro had said at the previous party congress in 2016 it would be the last one led by the "historic generation" who fought in the Sierra Maestra to topple a US-backed dictator in the 1959 leftist revolution.

He already handed over the presidency in 2018 to protege Miguel Diaz-Canel, 60, who ran the party in two provinces before joining the national government.

The new generation of leaders, which did not forge itself through rebellion, has no easy task. The transition comes as Cuba faces the worst economic crisis since the collapse of former benefactor the Soviet Union, while there are signs of growing frustration, especially among younger Cubans.

"I believe fervently in the strength and exemplary nature and comprehension of my compatriots, and as long as I live I will be ready with my foot in the stirrups to defend the fatherland, the revolution and socialism," Castro told hundreds of party delegates gathered at a convention center in Havana.

The congress, the party's most important meeting, held every five years to review policy and fix leadership, is a closed-door event but excerpts are being broadcast on state television.

Castro himself became acting president when Fidel fell ill in 2006 and later in 2011 party leader, launching a raft of social and economic reforms to open up one of the world's last Communist-run countries that later stalled.

On Friday, he hailed Diaz-Canel as one of the new generation of leaders that was picking up where he left off.

Castro's olive green military fatigues contrasted with the civil get-up of his protege, who is widely expected to succeed him as party first secretary, the most powerful position in Cuba's one-party system.


Also Read - New era beckons for Cuba, without a Castro in power


Older Cubans said they would miss having a Castro at the helm, although most acknowledged it was time to pass on the baton.

"It's another stage," said Maria del Carmen Jimenez, a 72-year old retired nurse, "but without a double we will miss him."

Castro denounced renewed US hostility under former president Donald Trump. Incumbent President Joe Biden has vowed to roll back some of Trump's sanctions, although the White House said on Friday a shift in Cuba policy was not among his top foreign policy priorities.

Castro said Cuba was ready for a "new type of relationship with the United States without ... Cuba having to renounce the principles of the revolution and socialism."

Pressure to reform

Cuba's new leaders face pressure to speed up reform, particularly economic change, which is foremost on citizens' minds, especially younger Cubans who have known only crisis, analysts say.

A tightening of the decades-old US trade embargo and the coronavirus pandemic have exacerbated a liquidity crisis in Cuba's ailing centrally planned economy. Shortages of even basic goods mean Cubans spend hours lining up to buy groceries.

And Havana has dollarized parts of the economy, leaving those who do not receive remittances from family abroad or did not earn hard currency from tourism struggling to get by. That has eaten away at equality, a pillar of the party's legitimacy.

Since the expansion of internet access in recent years, Cubans are increasingly using social media as a platform to express criticism, while online non-state media are challenging the state monopoly of mass media.

Tight control of public spaces by the authorities means protests are still relatively rare and small-scale, but they are on the increase nationwide on issues as varied as excessive red tape to curbs on civil liberties.

Castro said on Friday it was important to pursue reform with greater "dynamism," denouncing - as he has in the past - "inertia, conformism, the lack of initiative" in state companies. The government has resumed a set of economic reforms the party agreed on at its 2011 congress in recent months, in particular eradicating Cuba's dual currency, multiple exchange rate system in January.

Yet Castro said reforms fomenting the non-state sector should not go beyond certain limits that would lead to the "very destruction of socialism and the end of national sovereignty."

Party militants like Rogelio Machado, a mathematics teacher, say they were confident the new generation was up to walking that tightrope.

"Our country need changes and the new generation is more scientifically prepared to continue the path of socialism," he said.

But government critics like "artivist" Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara, whom Havana accuses of being part of a US-backed soft coup attempt, say the death knell is sounding for the revolution.

"Raul is passing over the power to someone with little charisma and who does not have much popular support," he said while staging his latest performance against the government, in which he sits in a garrote for the four days of the congress. 

"This takes us one step closer to democracy."

50
Facebook 50
blogger sharing button blogger
buffer sharing button buffer
diaspora sharing button diaspora
digg sharing button digg
douban sharing button douban
email sharing button email
evernote sharing button evernote
flipboard sharing button flipboard
pocket sharing button getpocket
github sharing button github
gmail sharing button gmail
googlebookmarks sharing button googlebookmarks
hackernews sharing button hackernews
instapaper sharing button instapaper
line sharing button line
linkedin sharing button linkedin
livejournal sharing button livejournal
mailru sharing button mailru
medium sharing button medium
meneame sharing button meneame
messenger sharing button messenger
odnoklassniki sharing button odnoklassniki
pinterest sharing button pinterest
print sharing button print
qzone sharing button qzone
reddit sharing button reddit
refind sharing button refind
renren sharing button renren
skype sharing button skype
snapchat sharing button snapchat
surfingbird sharing button surfingbird
telegram sharing button telegram
tumblr sharing button tumblr
twitter sharing button twitter
vk sharing button vk
wechat sharing button wechat
weibo sharing button weibo
whatsapp sharing button whatsapp
wordpress sharing button wordpress
xing sharing button xing
yahoomail sharing button yahoomail