Fidel Castro removed as head of Cuban communist party
Cuban President Raul Castro names right-hand man to post
Fidel Castro has been formally removed from the leadership of the Cuban Communist Party since its formation nearly 50 years ago. Senior members of Cuba's communist governorship have since been appointed to the top posts, in spite of expectations that younger members would be appointed.
"I knew the state of my health was grave," former Cuban dictator Fidel Castro recently wrote. "But I was at peace. The revolution would go on."
LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The moves came at the end of a congress of the ruling party in which participants also endorsed a potentially far-reaching package of economic reforms.
Cuban President Raul Castro and brother of Fidel was elected as expected to first secretary of the Communist Party, replacing Fidel. For the second slot, Castro named an 80-year-old hard-line communist official long seen as his right-hand man, Jose Ramon Machado Ventura.
The new 15-member Politburo, with the exception of one, has only slightly changed from the previous one. The politburo has only three members younger than 60; half are in their 70s.
New faces included 46-year-old Mercedes Lopez Acea, head of the Communist Party in Havana, and, significantly, 50-year-old Marino Murillo, a former economy minister recently placed in charge of the broad economic reforms that 79-year-old Raul Castro has made the centerpiece of his government.
The congress endorsed those reforms, which are believed to include issuing more licenses for small businesses, slashing bloated state payrolls and allowing, for the first time, the buying and selling of private property.
In the closing speech, Raul Castro said it could take five years for the new measures to go into effect; a timeline that some experts say is too protracted to save Cuba's flailing economy.
"We are not under the illusion that . [the measures] by themselves are the solution to all the problems that exist," Castro said. "Updating the economic model is not a miracle that can be achieved overnight, as some people think."
As for his brother's decision to leave the party leadership, Raul Castro said Fidel did not need a formal title to validate his position as the historic father of the revolution. The 84-year-old Fidel Castro made a surprise appearance at the congress' closing session, helped to the dais by an aide as delegates gave him a sustained standing ovation.
Fidel Castro recently revealed that when he fell ill in 2006 and nearly died, he not only relinquished the presidency but also his party role.
"I knew the state of my health was grave," he wrote. "But I was at peace. The revolution would go on."
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