Raul Castro Named Cuban Communist Party’s First Secretary

Former Cuban President Fidel Castro
Former Cuban President Fidel Castro. Photographer: Jorge Rey/Getty Images

Cuban President Raul Castro was named first secretary of the island’s Communist Party and revolutionary hero Jose Ramon Machado became second in command as officials gathered to debate ways to revive growth.

Raul’s brother, former Cuban President Fidel Castro, said he had resigned from the party’s leadership and called on a new generation of leaders to bolster the Caribbean island’s economy.

“Raul knew that at this time I wouldn’t accept any role in the party,” Castro, 84, wrote in a column published on Cuba Debate, a state-run website.

Party members are debating changes to Cuba’s economic system, which has been battered by a U.S. embargo and the global financial crisis. Proposals being discussed include eliminating the monthly ration books that provide Cubans with subsidized food and providing loans to individuals who start independent businesses.

Fidel attended the closing session of the Communist Party summit today, according to state-run newspaper Juventud Rebelde, which published a photo of Castro wearing a blue warm-up jacket at the meeting.

In a column yesterday, Castro said new leaders are well-prepared intellectually for a task that would be more difficult than the challenges faced by his generation when they took power in 1959. Castro said he wrote the comments after listening to debates during the summit, which started April 16.

Castro Surgery

Castro began transferring control to Raul in July 2006, when he underwent intestinal surgery, and officially stepped down as president in 2008. Raul, 79, has since initiated some measures to open the economy.

“There is no margin for error in this moment in human history,” Castro said in the first column. “The new generation is being called upon to rectify and change without hesitation everything that should be rectified and changed.”

Raul Castro said on April 16 that the country needed to impose term limits for elected officials to no more than two consecutive periods of five years each, state-run newspaper Juventud Rebelde reported.

Raul, who was shown submitting his ballot in a photograph in state-run media yesterday, was previously the second in command in the party’s central committee.

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