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Cuba approves economic shifts, to elect new party chief

19 april 2011, 11:32
Cuba's Communist Party on Monday approved a flurry of measures meant to keep its centrally planned economy from collapse but without any broad embrace of market-oriented economic change, AFP reports.

The changes inject a modicum of the free market into the island's economy ahead of a vote Tuesday expected to officially relieve 84-year-old Fidel Castro of his position as party head after more than four decades.

The 1,000 delegates gathered in Havana for four days for the party congress approved a raft of some 300 economic proposals, and elected a new central committee leadership.

Reforms include the cutting of, eventually, a million state jobs, and decentralizing of the agricultural sector; many of the measures have already been adopted over the past year, with the Congress now formally approving their arrival.

Results of the voting on leadership term limits will be presented Tuesday, but it is almost certain Fidel, who ceded power to his brother when he fell ill in 2006, would be finally, officially replaced as party chief. Raul, who turns 80 on June 3, likely would become the party's new first secretary.

Raul Castro said on Saturday that he backed political term limits of 10 years at most for the top leadership spots, in a country he and his brother have led for more than five decades.

Focus will be also on the party's number two position, which could possibly signal the direction of eventual transfer of power in the years to come.

Hope that Cuba would embrace broader market-minded reforms, like those seen in China, have already been rejected, however, by Raul this weekend, who said such a move would be "in open contradiction to the essence of socialism... because they were calling for allowing the concentration of property."

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