After a staggering five decades in power, Fidel Castro has confirmed his resignation from the leadership of the Communist Party in Cuba today, paving the way for a raft of economic and political reforms.
The unprecedented news follows his brother Raul’s announcement yesterday that senior officials – including himself – should only be in power for a maximum of 10 years.
The shock announcement would make it impossible for a repeat of the Castro brothers’ 52-year political monopoly, with the Cuban leader promising ‘systematic rejuvenation’ of the Government as well as admitting that errors had left the country with no obvious successor.
‘Raul knew that I would not accept a formal role in the party today,’ Fidel Castro said in an article on the Cubadebate.cu portal, referring to his brother Raul and his own absence from the party’s new Central Committee, which was elected on Monday.
Castro, 84, had served as first secretary in the Central Committee of the party – which underpins the country’s Communist government – since the party’s creation in 1965.
He said he had handed over the functions of the party head to Raul when he ceded power to his brother because of his own declining health in 2006, though he retained the first secretary title.
‘(Raul) has always been who I described as First Secretary and Commander in Chief,’ Fidel wrote in the article.
‘He never failed to convey to me the ideas that were planned,’ he added.
The move came after the sixth Communist Party Congress approved a flurry of measures on Monday aimed at keeping Cuba’s economy from collapse but still failed to embrace any broad market-oriented economic change.
The changes will inject an element of the free market into the island’s economy ahead of a vote on Tuesday expected to officially relieve 84-year-old Castro of his position as party head after more than four decades.
The 1,000 delegates gathered in Havana for the four-day party congress approved some 300 economic proposals and elected a new central committee leadership.
Reforms include the eventual cutting of over a million state jobs, and decentralizing the agricultural sector.
Many of the measures have already been adopted over the past year, with the Congress now formally approving them.
Results of the voting on leadership term limits will be presented Tuesday, when Fidel, who ceded power to his brother when he fell ill in 2006, would be finally, officially replaced as party chief.
Raul, who turns 80 on June 3, is likely to officially become the party’s new first secretary.
Reforms will also focus on the party’s number two position, which could possibly signal the direction of eventual transfer of power in the years to come.
Raul has rejected broader market-minded reforms like those adopted by China, however, saying they would be ‘in open contradiction to the essence of socialism…because they were calling for allowing the concentration of property.’
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