Wednesday, April 20, 2016

No new faces for Cuba's politburo as revolutionary leaders cling to power

No new faces for Cuba's politburo as revolutionary leaders cling to power
Rick Jervis, USA TODAY 5:40 p.m. EDT April 19, 2016

Cuba's aging revolutionary leaders will retain control of the communist
island for at least another five years, but opened the door for
new leadership in the near future, according to state-run media.

Cuban president Raul Castro, 84, will remain as first secretary of the
Cuban Communist Party and hardliner José Ramón Machado, 85, will
continue in his role as second secondary, state media reported.

The announcements came at the conclusion of the VII Congress of the
Cuban Communist Party, a gathering of Cuba's political elite held every
five years, and doused hopes that the communist island leadership would
announce sweeping political and economic reforms in the wake of renewed
ties with the United States. The leaders were expected to discuss the
direction of the country after Castro retires from the presidency in 2018.

News from the four-day meeting, which is closed to foreign press and
trickles out through state-run media sites, tempered hopes for U.S.
businesses seeking to capitalize on looser restrictions on travel and
trade to Cuba first announced by President Obama in 2014. The bulk of
those changes have been made on the U.S. side, with
little reciprocation from Havana.

The Cuba congress was "a very distinct caution to the public at large
that Cuba is a centrally-planned economy and intends to remain so," said
Robert Muse, a Washington attorney specializing in U.S.-Cuba laws.

On Tuesday, the 993 delegates at the Congress approved the nominated
candidates and then cast a secret ballot to elect Committee members.
Fidel Castro, 89, dressed in a blue-and-white-striped Adidas track suit
jacket and plaid shirt, made a rare public appearance and sat in on the
congress's final day.

During a speech on Saturday, Raul Castro said the party's Central
Committee should implement age and term limits on high-ranking members,
though those rules won't go into effect until the next congress,
presumably in 2021. Members of the Central Committee should not be more
than 60 years old and more prominent decision-makers, such as those in
the powerful Politburo, should not be more than 70, he said. He also
proposed two five-year term limits on ranking members.

Fidel Castro, 89, Raul Castro's older brother and the leader of the
armed revolution that seized power of Cuba in 1959, had essentially
ruled Cuba for five decades until leaving office a decade ago due to
health issues. Raul Castro has said he will relinquish his presidential
duties in 2018.

"You're going to get a different cast of characters at the top," said
Jorge Dominguez, a government professor at Harvard University who
follows Cuba closely. "[Raul Castro] is basically saying, 'What my
brother and I did, no one else will be able to do.'"

Relations between the USA and Cuba, longtime Cold War foes,
have warmed quickly since the December 2014 announcement by Obama and
Raul Castro. Those relations peaked last month with Obama's historic
trip to Cuba, the first in more than eight decades by a sitting U.S.

In Havana, Obama urged the Cuban people to forge their own future and
called on Cuban leaders to be more open to opposing views. He also met
with Cuban entrepreneurs and opposition groups and took in a baseball
game with Raul Castro.

None of that camaraderie, however, was reflected in Raul Castro's speech
on the congress's opening day. Instead, the Cuban president cautioned
against rushing into the new era of renewed diplomatic and business ties
with the U.S. The country's anticipated economic plan through 2030
wasn't yet ready, he said, and will be presented next year.

He said Cuba would avoid the "shock therapy" of entering a market
economy too quickly at the expense of Cuba's social programs, such as
universal health care and education.

"Neo-liberal policies which encourage the accelerated privatization of
state property and social services, such as health, education and social
security, will never be applied under Cuba's socialist model," he said.

Source: No new faces for Cuba's politburo as revolutionary leaders cling
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