Raul Castro succeeds brother as Fidel's legacy remains untainted

David Usborne
Monday 25 February 2008 01:00
Comments

Members of Cuba's National Assembly elected Raul Castro to succeed his brother, Fidel, last night. But there was little suspense in Havana yesterday anyway, as most people doubted the newly elected body would dare do anything but salute the legacy of Fidel by selecting his 76-year-old brother to take over.

The only real alternative for the 614-member Assembly was to embrace a generational shift, choosing one of two younger loyal lieutenants of the regime, either the Foreign Minister, Felipe Perez Roque, who is 42, or the 56-year-old Vice-President, Carlos Lage.

Raul Castro remained the more obvious choice. He has been acting as caretaker leader since 31 July 2006 when the authorities revealed that Fidel had been afflicted by a serious stomach ailment and was ceding day-to-day management of the country pending his recovery from surgery. That recovery never really came and last Tuesday Fidel withdrew his name from consideration by the Assembly.

The voting by secret ballot was watched over by Raul Castro, while the vote of his brother was delivered in a sealed envelope. Delegates were also naming vice-presidents of the ruling Council of State.

Raul Castro, who was Cuba's Defence Minister for decades, is widely expected to keep Cuba on the strict socialist path set by his brother although he has indicated in recent months a willingness to see some opening up of the economy, perhaps inspired by the model forged by Communist China.

In Washington, the US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, issued a statement urging more fundamental change. "We urge the Cuban government to begin a process of peaceful, democratic change by releasing all political prisoners, respecting human rights, and creating a clear pathway towards free and fair elections," she said.

The younger Castro, who has the backing of senior generals, will face significant challenges. If he has already spoken of "structural changes" for the economy, it is because conditions demand it. Cubans are increasingly weary of state salaries that have fallen far behind the cost of living as well as food shortages, housing shortfalls and a crumbling transport system.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in