Raul Castro hands over Cuban Communist Party leadership

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A picture of the former Cuban President Raul Castro is displayed on April 11, 2021 in the window of a state building in Havana, Cuba. Picture taken April 11, 2021; ReUTERS Alexandre Meneghini On Friday, Raul Castro confirmed he was handing over the leadership of the all-powerful Cuban Communist Party to a younger generation at its congress that kicked off, ending six decades of rule by himself and older brother Fidel. Castro, 89, said in a speech opening the four-day event that the new leadership were anti-imperialists with decades of experience working their way up the ranks and were full of passion and new spirit.

In the last party congress in 2016 it would be the last one led by the historic generation who fought in Sierra Maestra to topple a U.S.-backed dictator in a 1956 leftist revolution.

He has already handed over the presidency to the protege Miguel Diaz-Canel, 60, in 2018.

The congress is the party's most important meeting, held every five years to review policy and fix leadership. I believe fervently in the strength and exemplary nature and comprehension of my compatriots, and as long as I live I will be ready with my foot in the stirrups to defend the fatherland, the revolution and socialism.

Castro told hundreds of party delegates gathered at a convention center in Havana.

The congress is a closed-door event but excerpts are broadcast on state television.

Diaz-Canel hailed Castro as one of the new generation of leaders, praising the good results he had achieved in his three years in office.

Castro's olive green military fatigues contrasted with the civil scrambling of his protege who is widely expected to succeed him as first secretary of the party, the most powerful position in the one-party system in Cuba.

The New Cuban leaders face the worst economic crisis since the collapse of the Soviet Union, and there are signs of growing frustration, especially among younger Cubans.

A tightening of the decades-old US trade embargo and the coronavirus pandemic have exacerbated a liquidity crisis in the already troubled centrally planned economy, which was already struggling after a decline in Venezuelan aid.

That has led to shortages of even basic goods, with many Cubans spending hours lining up to buy groceries.

Castro condemned the renewed U.S. hostility under former president Barack Obama, who had forged a detente that he denied to the former President Donald Trump.

Trump, who took office in January, has vowed to reverse some of Joe Biden's sanctions, although the White House said on Friday that a shift in the Cuba policy was not among his top foreign policy priorities.

Castro said Cuba was ready for a new relationship: I ratify from this party congress the will to develop a respectful dialogue and create a new type of relationship with the United States, without, in order to achieve it, Cuba having to renounce the principles of revolution and socialism, he said.

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