• Monday, May 10, 2021
  • Last Update : 01:05 am

Cuba gets new leader as last Castro retires

  • Published at 09:06 pm April 19th, 2021
Raul Casto and Cuba's New Presiden Miguel Diaz Canel
File Photo: Outgoing Cuban President Raul Castro raises the arm of Cuba's new President Miguel Diaz-Canel after he was formally named by the National Assembly, in Havana on April 19, 2018 AFP

Diaz-Canel is Cuba's first civilian leader and the first non-Castro in power after Raul and his revolutionary brother Fidel

Miguel Diaz-Canel on Monday replaced Raul Castro as the leader of Cuba and its all-powerful communist party, the party announced, ending six decades of Castro rule.

Diaz-Canel, 60, has already served as Cuba's president since 2018, and now also takes the most powerful position, that of the first secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC) as Castro, 89, enters retirement.

Diaz-Canel is Cuba's first civilian leader and the first non-Castro in power after Raul and his revolutionary brother Fidel, who led the country from 1959 to 2006, when he fell ill.

"Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez was elected as the first secretary of the central committee of the Communist Party of Cuba," the PCC said on Twitter as the transfer of power was rubber-stamped on the fourth and final day of a party congress. 

Two other revolution-era figures have also stood down: Jose Ramon Machado Ventura, 90, the party's number two, and Commander Ramiro Valdes, 88.

But even as younger Cubans rise to power, no major changes in policy are immediately expected.

Most pressing on congress's agenda is the economy, which plummeted by 11% in 2020 -- the worst decline since 1993 -- due in no small part to the recent strengthening of the US embargo and the coronavirus pandemic. 

In his final address to the party on Friday, Castro affirmed a "willingness to conduct a respectful dialogue and build a new kind of relationship with the United States," which has had sanctions against Cuba since 1962.

However, he stressed the country would not renounce "the principles of the revolution and socialism."

The leadership change is not expected to yield any major policy shifts, and comes as Cuba battles its worst economic crisis in 30 years, sky-high inflation, biting food shortages, long lines for basic necessities, and growing disgruntlement over limited freedoms.

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