Sunday, May 9

Raúl Castro confirms his resignation, ending a long era in Cuba

Raúl Castro said Friday that he is resigning as head of the Communist Party of Cuba, ending an era of formal leadership by him and his brother Fidel Castro that began with the 1959 revolution.

Castro, 89, made the announcement Friday in a speech at the inauguration of the ruling party’s Eighth Congress, the only one allowed on the island.

He said that he was leaving with the feeling of having “fulfilled his mission and confidence in the future of the country.”

Castro did not say who he would endorse as his successor as first secretary of the Communist Party. But he previously indicated that he is in favor of handing over control to Miguel Díaz-Canel, 60, who succeeded him as president in 2018 and is the standard-bearer for a younger generation of loyalists who have been pushing for an economic opening without touching that of Cuba. -party system.

His retirement means that, for the first time in more than six decades, Cubans will not have a Castro formally ruling their affairs, and it comes at a difficult time, with many on the island eager for what lies ahead.

The coronavirus pandemic, painful financial reforms and restrictions imposed by the Trump administration have hit the economy, which contracted 11% last year as a result of the collapse in tourism and remittances. Long food lines and shortages have brought echoes of the “special period” that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s.

Discontent has been fueled by the expansion of the Internet and growing inequality.

Much of the debate within Cuba centers on the pace of reform, with many complaining that the so-called “historic generation” represented by Castro has been too slow to open up the economy.

In January, Díaz-Canel finally pulled the trigger on a plan approved two congresses ago to unify the island’s dual currency system, raising fears of inflation. It also opened the doors to a broader range of private businesses, a long-prohibited or strictly restricted category, which allows Cubans to legally operate many types of autonomous businesses from their homes.

This year’s congress is expected to focus on unfinished reforms to reform state-owned companies, attract foreign investment and provide more legal protection for private business activities.

The Communist Party is made up of 700,000 activists and, according to the Cuban constitution, it has the task of directing the affairs of the nation and society.

Fidel Castro, who led the revolution that ousted dictator Fulgencio Batista from power in 1959, formally became head of the party in 1965, some four years after officially embracing socialism.

He quickly absorbed the old party under his control and was the undisputed leader of the country until he fell ill in 2006 and in 2008 handed over the presidency to his younger brother Raúl, who had fought alongside him during the revolution.

Raúl succeeded him as head of the party in 2011. Fidel Castro died in 2016

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