Cuba’s Communist Party names first non-Castro chief

Havana, Apr 19 (EFE).- Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel succeeded 89-year-old Raul Castro as first secretary of the island’s Communist Party on Monday, the final day of that organization’s four-day congress.

The handover of that all-important post to Diaz-Canel is part of a broader transition that also has seen other members of the so-called “historic generation” – the party’s No. 2 official, Jose Ramon Machado Ventura (90); revolutionary commander Ramiro Valdes (88); and Marino Murillo, a former economy and planning minister who a decade ago spearheaded the introduction of more market-oriented economic policies – exit key posts in the party’s powerful Politburo in recent days.

Cuban state media, which has exclusive access to the congress, has not yet indicated who has been named to succeed Machado Ventura as the party’s second secretary.

The new members of the Politburo – the party’s, and therefore Cuba’s, highest decision-making body in between sessions of the party’s Central Committee – include Cuban Prime Minister Manuel Marrero; and Luis Alberto Rodriguez Lopez-Callejas, Raul Castro’s former son-in-law and head of the military-owned GAESA conglomerate that controls the country’s most valuable economic assets.

Among the other officials besides the 60-year-old Diaz-Canel who are staying on at the Politburo, which will now have 14 instead of 17 members, will be the president of Cuba’s parliament, Esteban Lazo; the island’s first vice president, Salvador Valdes; Roberto Morales, a deputy prime minister; and Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez.

That body will still have three veteran members over the age of 70 and three women: the president of the Federation of Cuban Women, Teresa Amarelle; the director of the Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, Marta Ayala; and the party’s first secretary in the municipality of Artemisa, Gladys Martinez.

The military is represented by the recently designated minister of the Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces, army Gen. Alvaro Lopez Miera; Interior Minister Lazaro Alvarez Casas; and Rodriguez Lopez-Callejas, who holds the rank of brigadier general.

Diaz-Canel succeeded Raul Castro as president in April 2018.

The four-day Eighth Party Congress concludes on Monday, the 60th anniversary of the failed Bay of Pigs invasion on the island’s southern coast.

Roughly 1,500 United States-trained Cuban exiles disembarked on April 17, 1961, in an effort to topple the government of revolutionary leader Fidel Castro (1926-2016).

In less than 72 hours of combat, the Cuban armed forces defeated the exiles, who had to fight without the US air support they had been counting on.

Fidel Castro had seized power two years earlier from dictator Fulgencio Batista and went on to hold the position of first secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba from 1965 to 2011, when he was succeeded by his younger brother Raul. EFE


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