Havana-Raul Castro confirmed in parliament that began on Friday that he had passed on the leaders of the Communist Party of Cuba to a younger generation, ending 60 years of rule by himself and his brother Fidel.
In a four-day event speech, Castro, 89, said the new leader was a supporter of the party with decades of experience in raising the ranks, “full of passion and anti-imperialist spirit. “.
Castro said at the last party convention in 2016, it would be the last party convention led by the “historic generation” who fought in the Sierra Maestra to defeat the US-backed dictator in the 1959 Left Revolution. He has already handed over the president in 2018 to protect Miguel Díazcanel, 60.
Parliament is the party’s most important meeting, held every five years to review policies and revise leadership.
“I enthusiastically believe in the power, exemplary nature and understanding of my compatriots. As long as I live, I am ready to step into the stirrup to protect my country, revolution and socialism.” Castro told hundreds of party representatives who had gathered. At the convention center in Havana.
The conference is a private event, but excerpts are broadcast on state television.
After taking over leadership from Fidel in 2008, Castro, who launched a raft of social and economic reforms to free Cuba, welcomed Diaz Cannell as one of the leaders of a new generation.
Castro’s Olive Green military fatigue contrasts with the awakening of his disciple’s citizens, who are widely expected to succeed him as one-party secretary of the party, which is the most powerful one-party state in Cuba. It was a target.
Older Cubans said they would miss commanding Castro, but most admitted that it was time to hand over the baton.
“That’s another stage, but without the double, we would miss him,” said 72-year-old retired nurse Maria del Carmen Jimenez.
Castro has accused the new US hostility under former President Donald Trump. The White House said on Friday that the Cuban policy shift was not among his top foreign policies, but incumbent President Joe Biden vowed to withdraw some of Trump’s sanctions.
Cuba said Cuba is ready for “… a new type of relationship with the United States without the need for Cuba to abandon the principles of revolution and socialism.”
Pressure on reform
While new Cuban leaders have faced the worst economic crisis since the collapse of their former benefactor, the Soviet Union, there are signs of increasing dissatisfaction, especially among young Cubans. ..
The strengthening of US trade bans and the coronavirus pandemic decades ago exacerbated the liquidity crisis in the sick central planned economy, which had already been struggling following a decline in Venezuela’s aid.
It leads to a shortage of even basic merchandise, and many Cubans line up for hours to buy groceries.
According to analysts, these issues are above all in the minds of the public, especially young Cubans who only know the crisis.
“We want a better future without so many internal and external restrictions,” said Guillermo Estrada, 31, who lives in Havana.
Since the recent expansion of Internet access, Cubans are increasingly using social media as a platform for expressing criticism, but online non-state media is challenging the national monopoly of mass media.
Strict control of public spaces by authorities means that protests are still relatively rare and small, but they are increasing nationwide.
According to economists, the dire economic situation has led the government to accelerate the implementation of the reforms that the party first agreed on in 2011. Inflation has skyrocketed from four to five times this year’s financial reforms.
Havana has converted part of its economy into dollars, leaving some who have not received remittances from overseas families or who have struggled with tourism to make money. It was eaten up by equality, a pillar of the party’s legitimacy.
Castro said on Friday that accelerating reforms is important and, as before, blames “lack of inertia, suitability and initiative” in state-owned enterprises.
Still, he said reforms that encourage the non-state sector should not exceed certain limits that lead to “the great destruction of socialism and the end of national sovereignty.”
Party extremists like math teacher Rogerio Machado say they are confident that the new generation will walk on that tricky tightrope.
“Our country needs change, and a new generation is more scientifically prepared to continue the path of socialism,” he said.
But government critics like “artist” Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara, who accuses Havana of being part of a U.S.-backed soft coup attempt, say the death bell is echoing the revolution. say.
“Raul is giving power to less charismatic and less popular people,” he said while performing his latest performance against the government, where he was hanged for four days in Congress. Sit down. “This takes us one step closer to democracy.”
Sarah Marsh and Nelson Acosta