Raul Castro named 1st secretary of Communist party

Raul replaces his older brother Fidel Castro as First Secy of ruling party.

Havana: Raul Castro was named first secretary of Cuba`s Communist Party on Tuesday, with his aging brother Fidel not included in the leadership for the first time since the party`s creation 46 years ago.

Despite raising hopes during the gathering that a new generation of leaders was poised to take up important positions, Raul announced that Jose Ramon Machado Ventura, an 80-year-old longtime confidante, would be his No. 2.

Ramiro Valdes, a 78-year-old vice president, was named to the No. 3 spot. Several younger people were added to the 15-member leadership group, but in lesser positions.

Fidel Castro, 84, made a surprise appearance at the gathering, receiving thunderous applause from the 1,000 delegates assembled in a vast convention center in the capital, Havana.

Many could be seen crying as he was helped to his place on stage by a young aide, then stood at attention next to his brother during the playing of Cuba`s national anthem.

The revolutionary icon, who wore a blue track suit over a checked shirt, looked unsteady on his feet as he clutched the aide`s arm, and at times slumped in his chair. But he became more animated as the proceedings continued, especially when Raul`s name was read out by a party official announcing the members of the party`s Central Committee.

That larger group is tasked with picking the leadership council. For the first time since the party`s founding in 1965, Fidel was not included in the names of Central Committee members, which were called out alphabetically.

Each newly elected official stood up, revealing a mix of young and old, including many women and Cubans of African descent. There were also a number of generals and other senior armed forces officials.

Bureau Report