Castro extends powers to party functionaries
Cuba on Monday ended a nearly two-year provisional period, which began
when Fidel Castro fell ill in July 2006.
Posted on Wed, Apr. 30, 2008
BY RUI FERREIRA AND WILFREDO CANCIO ISLA
El Nuevo Herald
Cuban leader Raúl Castro has put an end to his country's nearly two-year
''provisional'' period, increasing the powers of old functionaries in
the Communist Party who also make up the hierarchy of the governing
Council of State appointed in February.
Castro not only reformed the Politburo by promoting three new members
and creating an oversight commission, but he also announced the
convening of the VI Congress of the Cuban Communist Party -- the first
such gathering in a dozen years set to take place sometime in the second
half of 2009.
The announcement made on Cuban television Monday night and reported in
state-controlled media Tuesday is viewed as a return to a more
institutionalized power structure. Cuba has been functioning in a
provisional mode since Fidel Castro fell ill in July 2006. Raúl Castro
was formally named president in February.
During a meeting of the Central Committee, Raúl Castro stated that the
congress will ``set the nation's political and economic directives.''
The announcement was accompanied by other important decisions, such as
the naming of three new members of the Politiburo, the institution of a
reduced commission and the creation of seven subordinate working
commissions that include: Ideology and Culture, Economy, Food and
Agriculture, Import Substitutes and Increasing Exports, Education,
Science and Sports, Health and International Relations.
''Comrade Raúl alerted that in light of the current situation and
perspective, we have to work together to continue forward with the same
spirit of struggle and firmness of these nearly 50 years of
revolution,'' stated Tuesday's edition of Granma, the Communist Party
Castro ''indicated that the adopted agreements end the provisional
period that began on July 31st of 2006'' when Fidel Castro temporarily
ceded power to his younger brother. Also announced was the reinstatement
of veteran leader José Ramón Fernández, 85, as minister of education.
Additionally, a group of prisoners awaiting execution had their
sentences commuted until a final decision is made.
The Communist Party Congress should have been held in 2002, but was
continuously postponed without explanation.
''The Politburo considers it necessary to hold the VI Party Congress,''
Castro also announced the promotion of three former political blocks to
the Politburo and the organizational restructuring of that agency --
officially ending the provisional period in which the country functioned.
According to Granma, the three figures elected to the Politburo are: the
current Minister of Communications and Information Technology, Commander
Ramiro Valdés; 76; the President of the Cuban Workers Union, Salvador
Valdés Mesa, 56; and the Vice Minister of Defense, Gen. Alvaro López
The Communist Party's Central Committee also decided to create an
oversight committee ''with a reduced number of members'' to make ``more
operative and functional the process of decision making that requires
rapid treatment and will also allow for a collective evaluation.''
This oversight committee is to be headed up by Castro himself; the first
Vice President of the State Council, José Ramón Machado Ventura;
Commandander Juan Almeida Bosque; Minister of the Interior Abelardo
Colomé Ibarra; Vice President of the State Council Carlos Lage Dávila;
Defense Minister Julio Casas Regueiro; and Central Committee member
Esteban Lazo Hernández.
On Feb. 24, Fidel Castro stepped down as head-of-state and
commander-in-chief, though no mention was made of what would become of
his position as first secretary of the Communist Party, which
''according to the constitution'' is ``the superior directive force of
the society and the State.''