Saturday 20 January 2018

Castro to impose time limit on reign in bid to avert unrest

Christopher Hart in Havana

RAUL Castro has proposed term limits for Cuban politicians -- including himself -- in a remarkable gesture on an island ruled for 52 years by him and his brother.

At a Communist Party summit in Havana, the 79-year-old president lamented the lack of young leaders in government, saying the country was paying the price for past errors.

In his opening address to the first party Communist Partycongress in 14 years, Mr Castro admitted the government had made mistakes and now lacked a "reserve of well-trained replacements" for its ageing leaders.

Mr Castro and his brother Fidel have ruled for 52 years, but the president said now was the time to launch a "systematic rejuvenation". Politicians and other top officials should be restricted to two five-year terms.

As the 79-year-old only succeeded his ailing brother in 2008, that could still give him another seven years as head of state.

But Mr Castro's remarks suggest that the wave of popular unrest across the Arab world may have persuaded him to take a more proactive approach in addressing how Cuba will evolve in the coming years. Reforms designed to bolster the collapsing socialist economy were top of the agenda at the meeting in Havana.

The regime will still remain a one-party state with no concessions offered on democratic rights such as freedom of assembly.

But Mr Castro called for a series of economic reforms, including the expansion of small businesses, the ending of rations for all and slashing of the state workforce.

The monthly ration of basic foods has become "an unsupportable burden for the economy and a disincentive for work" and should eventually go only to those in need, he pledged.

Mr Castro also rejected the concentration of property in private hands -- an indication that prospects for a new entrepreneurial class remain distant.(© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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