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Communist Party of Cuba to elect new leader as Raul Castro steps down

CUBA will usher in a new era as the next leader of the ruling Communist Party is elected in Havana tomorrow following Raul Castro’s retirement at the age of 89.

It brings an end to six decades of leadership by first Fidel and then Raul Castro since the 1959 revolution which overthrew the US-backed Batista dictatorship.

Addressing the Communist Party of Cuba’s 8th National Congress, Mr Castro said he was “satisfied that he is handing over the leadership of the country to a group of prepared leaders” with decades of experience.

The new party leadership is “committed to the ethics of the revolution, identified with the history and culture of the nation, full of passion and anti-imperialist spirit and aware that they represent the continuity of the revolution,” he said in his opening speech on Friday.

Among that leadership is President Miguel Diaz-Canel, who is widely expected to be elected leader of the Communist Party tomorrow.

He assumed the presidency in 2019 after Mr Castro stepped down and became the first holder of the post to be born after the 1959 revolution.

Mr Castro slammed what he described as “the intensification of policies against Cuba” by the US during the global Covid-19 pandemic and the “immoral campaign” of sabotage against the socialist island’s international medical campaign, which he said was “a crime against universal human rights” denying access to healthcare for millions around the world.

He insisted Cuba was open to respectful dialogue — though would not make concessions on the Caribbean island’s governance and economy.

While the revolutionary leader stepped down as party leader he said he was not backing away entirely from the political scene.

“I fervently believe in the strength and value of the example and understanding of my compatriots — and as long as I live I will be ready with my foot in the stirrup to defend the homeland,” he said.

Solidarity greetings were sent from communist and workers’ parties from across the world, including the Communist Party of China which described Cuba as “the nucleus of the revolution and the construction of socialism.”

“We are convinced that under the firm leadership of the Communist Party of Cuba, the Congress … will inject  energy into the development of socialism with Cuban characteristics,” a message said.

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