Raul Castro takes over Communist Party

For the first time since it’s creation in 1965, the Communist Party of Cuba has a new leader.  As of April 19, 2011, Raul Castro replaced his brother Fidel as First Secretary, the party’s highest position.

Raul Castro was chosen during the final session of the Sixth Congress of the Communist Party, the first meeting in 14 years.  Cuba’s current Vice President Jose Ramon Machado Ventura was also elected as Second Secretary of the party, according to the Cuban News Agency, www.ain.cu.   The size of the Politburo was also cut from 24 members to 15.

Raul Castro became the President of Cuba in 2008, but his brother Fidel still maintained the highest position in the Communist Party in Cuba, the only official party recognized in Cuba.  Fidel announced earlier this month that he had resigned from his position as First Secretary of the party five years ago, although that was surprising news to people in Cuba.  The transition was made official on April 19, and marks the end of Fidel’s leadership in Cuba since he founded the party over 55 years ago.

President Raul Castro is 79 years old while Vice President Ventura is 80.  Raul Castro has said that it is time for “ a systematic rejuvenation of the whole chain of party and administrative posts,” reported cnn.com.  In a speech at the inauguration meeting of the party, Castro said he believes it is time to limit the amount of time that political and state officers can hold their positions, suggesting a maximum of two five years terms.

The problem is “Cuba’s leadership had failed to prepare a younger generation to take over, leaving the country without a reserve of substitutes who are adequately prepared,” Raul Castro said.

At the Congress meeting, Castro proposed more than 300 proposals that Congress approved on economic and political issues.  They included layoffs in the public sector accompanied by expanding the private sector to create jobs for the unemployed.

Fidel Castro was also present at the session but did not speak, perhaps signaling the end of his era.


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