Raul Castro to quit, ending 6 decade of Castro rule
HAVANA, Apr 16: Cuba's leadership is passing to a younger generation, with the last Castro leaving office and ending a 60-year family monopoly, but there is little other change as power remains firmly with the Communist Party.
At a four-day party congress starting Friday, 89-year-old Raul Castro will relinquish the country's most powerful position -- that of party first secretary -- to 60-year-old Miguel Diaz-Canel, Cuba's president.
This officially ends six decades of dominion over Cuban politics by Castro and his brother Fidel, who ruled for nearly half a century from 1959 to 2006 and is widely revered as the country's father and saviour.
Diaz-Canel will be only the third-ever first secretary of the all-powerful Communist Party of Cuba (PCC), while still retaining the presidency.
He also becomes Cuba's first civilian leader since the Castro-led revolution of the 1950s, which happened before he was even born.
But while the suit-and-tie wearing, tech-savvy Beatles fan may be more modern in some ways than his predecessors -- both of whom were fond of donning military garb -- he remains first and foremost a party disciple.
"He is part of the political struggle, the ideological struggle," said Carlos Alzugaray, a former Cuban diplomat.
"The absence of a Castro at the helm doesn't necessarily mean there's going to be an abrupt change in the Communist party's style," added Norman McKay, an analyst with The Economist Intelligence Unit.
A new constitution passed in May 2019 made it clear that the country's commitment to socialism was "irrevocable."
Yet many Cubans pay little heed to politics, preoccupied as they are by the worst economic crisis in 30 years, sky-high inflation, biting food shortages, snaking queues for basic necessities and limited freedoms.
"I hope the congress will lead to an improvement because the prices are too high," said pensioner Maria Martinez, 68. -AFP