Fidel Castro has made what is likely to be his final speech to Cuba’s Congress, telling the assembled politicians that he would die soon but that the revolution’s ideals would live on.
The 89-year-old spoke after his brother Raul, 84, was re-elected as head of the Communist party – a position the younger Castro has said he will hold until retiring in 2018.
Fidel Castro applauding during the closing ceremony of VII Congress of Cuban Communist Party CREDIT: OMARA GARCIA MEDEROS/AFP/GETTY IMAGES
And Fidel Castro said the time was approaching for a younger generation to take over. His declaration appeared to be less of an announcement that he was dying – he has been suffering from intestinal problems since the early 2000s – than a statement of obvious fact.
“I’ll be 90 years old soon,” he said. “Soon I’ll be like all the others.”
The Congress, which is held every five years, saw most of the senior leadership remain in place. Jose Ramon Machado, Raul Castro’s hardline 85-year-old deputy, was re-elected. Miguel Diaz-Canel, the 55-year-old seen as the likeliest candidate to take over from the president in two years time, remained in his place but was not promoted.
Raul Castro opened the Congress last week with the pledge that, from now on, leaders of the party will have to retire at 70.
He has called for sweeping changes in the management of Cuba’s economy. But he said the next five years would be for transition, and such rules would not be fully applied until then.
And Fidel Castro said that the next time the Congress was held, in 2021, there would be a new leadership in place.
“This seventh congress will be the last one led by the historic generation,” said Fidel, to roars of approval from the Havana hall.
Cuban leader Fidel Castro talks to reporters in New York in 1960 CREDIT: AP PHOTO
“The time will come for all of us. But the ideas of the Cuban Communists will remain as proof on this planet that if they are worked at with fervor and dignity, they can produce the material and cultural goods that human beings need – and we need to fight without truce to obtain them.”
Last month President Barack Obama became the first US leader in 88 years to visit Cuba, but he did not meet with Fidel.
The elder Castro issued a strongly-worded rebuke to the US after Mr Obama had left, saying Cuba did not need their help and would continue with their Communist ideals.
Fidel Castro timeline
August 13, 1926Born in Biran, in rural, eastern Cuba; one of seven children.
July 26, 1953Fidel leads his first uprising, with his younger brother Raul joining a failed attempt to take the Moncada barracks in Santiago de Cuba. He is captured and put on trial, where he defends himself with his famous “History will absolve me” speech attacking General Batista. He is sentenced to 15 years in prison.
July 1955Granted amnesty by General Batista, Fidel and his fellow fighters are released from prison and go into exile in Mexico, where Castro meets Argentine revolutionary Che Guevara. A year later they set sail from Mexico for Cuba, hoping to finally overthrow General Batista.
January 1, 1959After over two years of fighting, the rebels reach Havana and General Batista flees to the Dominican Republic. Fidel is declared prime minister.
April 18, 1961Cuban Americans, financed and trained by the CIA, land at the Bay of Pigs in an attempt to overthrow the government. They fail.
October 1962The Cuban Missile Crisis.
February 1980Fidel marries Dalia Soto del Valle, a teacher and mother of five of his children, who he has been in a relationship with since 1961.
August 29, 1990Fidel declares the beginning of “a special period”; a time of shortages and rationing as Cuba struggled to cope with the fall of the Berlin Wall and collapse of the USSR, its main crutch.
September 2000Fidel and Bill Clinton pass in the corridor of the UN Millennium Summit and shake hands – the first time two presidents have met since 1960.
July 31, 2006Raul takes over, owing to Fidel’s poor health.
February 2008Raul takes over permanently as Fidel resigns from the presidency.