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Cuba's Raul Castro to Lead Communist Party for 5 More Years

  • Lou Lorscheider

FILE - Cuba's President Raul Castro arrives for the 70th session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York, Sept. 28, 2015.

FILE - Cuba's President Raul Castro arrives for the 70th session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York, Sept. 28, 2015.

Cuba's Communist Party says 84-year-old President Raul Castro will hold the party's highest post for another five years, alongside his chief lieutenant, 85-year-old hardliner Jose Ramon Machado Ventura.

Those disclosures came Tuesday, capping a four-day secret party congress that many analysts had expected to produce signs that party stalwarts - many of them in their 70s and 80s - would begin to step aside in favor of younger leaders.

Government news sites said Castro, whose presidency ends in 2018, will remain the party's first secretary and that Machado Ventura will hold the post of second secretary.

Castro had earlier called for drastic changes to Cuba's Soviet-style command economy, while calling for top leaders to retire at age 70. But he has also indicated that new party rules would not be operational until the next party congress in 2021.

The reports say the party also chose its powerful 15-member political bureau, which observers say is largely devoid of new and younger party members.

The twice-a-decade congress ended a month after U.S. President Barack Obama's historic visit to Havana, the first visit by a sitting U.S. president in nearly 90 years. Since then, Cuban leaders have sought to portray that visit as a U.S. attempt to woo ordinary Cubans away from the country's socialist values and toward a multi-party democracy.

More than a half century ago, Machado Ventura fought alongside Fidel Castro and Marxist revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara in a rebellion against dictator Fulgencio Batista, who ruled in the 1950s.

He has since sat on the powerful Politburo for the past four decades and has frequently been deployed by both Castros to maintain party discipline.

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