Cuba President Raul Castro seeks 10-year term limits


Raul Castro realises Cuba's communists "made real mistakes out of idealism", the BBC's Michael Voss reports from Havana

Cuban President Raul Castro has said top political positions should be limited to two five-year terms, and promised "systematic rejuvenation" of the government.

President Castro was speaking at the start of the first congress of Cuba's ruling Communist Party in 14 years.

He said the party leadership was in need of renewal and should subject itself to severe self-criticism.

The proposal is unprecedented under Cuban communism.

Mr Castro, 79, made clear the limits would apply to himself.

He took over from his brother Fidel in 2008 and between them they have ruled Cuba for 52 years.

He acknowledged that "the confidence of the majority of Cubans had been tested, with regard to the party and the revolution".

Cubans, he said, would have to overcome a "mentality of inertia" and said the only thing that could threaten the revolution was "our inability to rectify errors".

His brother and former leader Fidel Castro, now 84, missed the day's events. He said he regretted his absence but felt proud of the congress and the military parade that preceded it.

Economic change

In his speech, Raul Castro said the limit of two consecutive five-year terms would apply to "the current president of the Council of State and his ministers" - a reference to himself.


There is no talk of political change inasmuch as Cuba's rulers are going to allow other parties or hold more open elections.

However, I think they have seen what has been happening around the Arab world and are thinking it is best to be pro-active.

Very clearly, allowing presidents to stand for just two terms is a way they see of helping people get used to the idea that change is on the way.

Much of what he said concerned his plans to reduce the role of the state in the economy and encourage private enterprise.

It would take at least five years to update Cuba's economic model, Mr Castro said.

Free education and healthcare would still be guaranteed, but mass subsidies of basic goods would be removed and social spending would be "rationalised".

Mr Castro said 200,000 people had already registered as self-employed since changes were announced last October, doubling the number of Cubans working for themselves.

But he insisted the socialist character of Cuba would be "irreversible" and accumulation of property would not be allowed.

The Communist Party Congress was preceded by a one of the largest military parades Cuba has seen in years, marking the 50th anniversary of the failed Bay of Pigs invasion by US-backed exile groups.

Troops and armoured vehicles paraded through Havana's Revolution Square, followed by hundreds of thousands of civilians waving flags and chanting slogans.

The parade and congress also celebrate 50 years since Fidel Castro proclaimed that his was a socialist revolution.

In 1961, Cuban exile groups armed and trained by the American CIA came ashore at the Bay of Pigs, 100 miles (160 km) southeast of Havana, in an attempt to overthrow him.

But after 72 hours of combat the invasion was defeated, in what Cuba celebrates as the "first great defeat for US imperialism in Latin America".

Raul Castro, who is a general, donned military fatigues for the parade.

Fidel Castro 'pride'

There was no sign of Raul Castro's brother, the revolutionary leader and former President Fidel Castro, who is now 84 years old.

But remarks attributed to him appeared later on the Cubadebate website, in which he spoke of a "feeling of pride" at the day's events.

"It's worth to have lived to see that show today and it's worth always to remember those who gave their life to make it possible," he was quoted as saying.

He said he could not have coped with the heat for more than an hour, but regretted being unable to attend.

"Believe me, I felt myself ashamed when I saw some of you looking for me," he said.

"I thought you would understand I can no longer do any more what I've done many times."

The four-day party congress is expected to see 1,000 delegates back all or part of a package of nearly 300 reforms.


It will also elect a new 100-member central committee, a 19-member politburo and a 10-member secretariat.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    For 2cents, one final comment on your post, I will not sink to name calling, insults or sarcasm. My remarks come from personal experience. To put the record straight I have been fortunate enough to have lived and studied in Cuba, to have seen both the touristy side and have lived among some wonderful people, who, are some of the best and selfless people I have ever met.

    No further comment.

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    For 2cents, thank you for your comment, your knowledge of the subject is somewhat lacking, rudimentry health care, the facts will tell you that Cuba has a lower infant mortality rate than where you live. ELAM, Operation Miracle, etc. are but a few of the good things that Cuba does, FREE! and your donation to Haiti was what exactly?

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    wow sounds great place to live this Cuba , they must be overwhelmed with immigrants what with the nice climate, free healthcare, benevolent government, jobs for everyone. Who needs multi party politics, a free press, frreedom to travel abroad or more that $20 a week to live on.

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    As Fidel has said once "Cuba is perhaps the most free nation in the world". I would like to agree as in what other country can the people voice their thoughts and concerns and then have the constitution change as a direct result? This, readers, is direct democracy from the people and to all those who are interested in world affairs and Cuba need to start educatingthemselves before judging millions

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    Reading some of these very brainwashed comments makes me very sad as a human who has great respect for a country who gave the most basic rights to all of its people, whose country defended a countries sovereignty and liberated another in Africa while fighting Apartheid armies supported by the west. On top of all this they have confronted an blockade and not embargo, as affirmed by the UN.

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    3pesos: Spoken like a true apparatchik. Cuba flourishing? Por Favor! Cuban doctors abroad are a source of net revenue for the regime, in cash and in kind, rather than a financial burden if they remained in Cuba. Mean while the average Cuba gets rudimentary medical attention, propaganda notwithstanding.

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    Even a Castro comes to eventually see the failure of communism, which is simply a step away from socialism.

    The rest of the world other than the US hasn't had a Cuban embargo. Using a US embargo as an explanation for Cuba's failures is a sad excuse. If anything, it says that there cannot be success without reliance on US capitalism.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    Revolution means constant change, change to benefit all the people, and not exploit them as Capitalism does. Cuba, despite all the might of the US Empire has thrown at it, has flourished and helps others, take Haiti where they have more doctors and medical personell than any of the Capitalist countries, who have promised help but not delivered.

    Hasta la victoria siempre. Viva la revolucion!

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    I find it sad my country (US) is so ignorant. It's not communism that threatened us, it's the people in X countries that happened to be communist. Still, to this day people here think socialism is communism. This is ignorance. The two are different types of systems and we have many forms of socialism in the US. "Keep your hands off my medicare" is is a perfect example of such ridiculous ignorance.

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    I wish the best to Cuba in this right step toward true communism despite the u.s.of A's attempt to sabotage it. Where capitalism seeks to make more at the expense of the masses, communism seeks to make the more of the masses. The dividends that result from such an approach far exceeds any expense. I hope Cuba will seek to remain true to this core and most egalitarian of ideals.


  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    Sustained growth? According perhaps to government propaganda. Why then are they perpetually broke? Castro has milked the natural and cultural patrimony that was Cuba to the point of decrepitude. Anyone that knew Cuba before and after will tell you. Quality healthcare is a myth except for the apparatchik. And Oliver, you can't even sustain misery if everyone sits on their arse.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    Yes Oliver, sustained growth - they can only go up because they are already at the bottom. Capitalism will rescue their economy. That's why they are cutting government jobs and allowing free enterprise.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    US embargo that prohibits Americans travel to Cuba makes no sense, when Americans are free to travel to and live in China - the "grand-father" of communism in terms of China's population and size compared to Cuba. I welcome Raul Castro's call for limited capitalism.Cuba should keep what works like free healthcare and free education for it citizen and ditch planned economy which has not worked.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    the only country with sustainable growth, 6th in therms of literacy, good health care. Hell I'd sit on my arse all day for that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    I have many Cuban relatives and have visited the country a number of times. Castro's evil empire is over, he just doesn't realize it yet. The younger generation of Cubans are not fooled by the propaganda they learn in school. The reason they are privatizing jobs is because the state is broke. It would collapse entirely without the help they are getting from Chavez. Worker's paradise lost - Cuba.

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    On the day leading up to the party congress, the largest military parade in years was held. It was a clear show of strength not of the people's support for their government, but of what the government can do to its people should they oppose it. Until Cuba's military decides they had enough, nothing will change. That is why control of the military has always been the Castro's top priority.

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    Fidel Castro chose communism because it was the system of government that best assured his role as dictator for life. He was always been obsessed with the need dictate what everyone else does. He wants freedom all to himself. Nothing that the US has done or hasn't done will change that. Now Raul is attempting to give back some of those freedoms, but not too much, to try to stay in power.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    What is fair about a country where a hotel waiter earns more in an hour than a doctor does in a month? Many cubans make their money from tourism and prostitution, which is much easier than struggling to run your own business with few resouces. Having said that, the Cuban people are resourceful, creative and ingenious people who, given time, will thrive on new opportunities for a different life.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    The reporter is right, this 'socialism' has done anything but create a nation of equals. It has created a country of mainly lazy people who have been given no incentive to work. The only thing that inspires a modern cuban to acquire money is that they may be able to escape the country and the regime that has done nothing for them or their families.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    The notion of democracy is beautiful: its intention is to return power to the majority. However, every time we vote, we simply hand back power to the minority.

    Free elections are merely scenery for the public.

    Homeland or death!


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