14ymedio, Havana, 21 December 2017 — In a last minute turn of events, the Cuban Parliament extended Raul Castro’s current mandate for two months, a decision that extends his presidency beyond February 2018, when he was expected to leave power. The “serious effects of Hurricane Irma across the entire national territory,” has been used to justify the decision, which was proposed to the National Assembly of Peoples Powe (ANPP) by the Council of State.
The National Assembly agreed to modify the schedule of general elections in Cuba, which will allow Raúl Castro and the current Council of State to remain in power until April 19 of next year, two months later than the 8th legislature was supposed to conclude.
“The State Council proposed to the ANPP to extend the mandate of the provincial assemblies until March 25, 2018, and of the current legislature of the ANPP until April 19, when its president and vice president will be elected, as will be the Council of State and its members,” reported a note published on Thursday at 10:21 AM Cuba time in the official newspaper Granma.
The ANPP noted that the Constitution of the Republic, in Chapters 72 and 111, establishes the election of Parliament for a term of five years and its extension can only be approved by the Assembly itself “in the case of war or under exceptional circumstances.”
Since the National Assembly of People’s Power was established in 1976, it is the first time that these Chapters have been used to delay the timetable for the inauguration of the parliamentarians and the subsequent appointment of the State Council.
The announcement coincides with the call made by Raúl Castro himself in his capacity as First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC), to hold a plenary session of the Central Committee of the PCC in March. The agenda of the meeting includes “delving into the experiences gained during the implementation process of the Guidelines” and a “strategic projection for the coming years,” according to the official press.
The Cuban constitution endorses the PCC as the “force superior to society and the State,” so that decisions that significantly impact the political life of the Island could emanate from the plenum. Analysts have speculated for months on a possible “separation of powers” that makes Cuba’s current government structure bicephalous.
For the first time in the institutional history of the last decades of Castroism there is the possibility that the person appointed to the head of the State Council might not be the same person who leads the party ranks.
On February 24, Raúl Castro was scheduled to leave the presidency if he delivered on the promise he made several times in recent years. His announced departure from power was viewed with suspicion by some and seen as an inescapable fact by others, but almost no one argued that his departure put an end to six decades of the mandate of the so-called historical generation.
In 2011, during the VI Congress of the Communist Party, Raúl Castro outlined the limitation of the mandates of “fundamental” political and state offices to a maximum of two consecutive periods of five years each.
During a state visit to Mexico in November 2015, Castro reiterated his decision: “As I said at the last Congress of our party,” he recalled, “on February 24, 2018 I will finish and I will retire,” he emphasized before Mexican journalists and the international press.
The same idea was repeated during the 7th Congress of the PCC in which he emphasized the need to deploy a plan to “rejuvenate” the island’s government, while maintaining a one-party system.
“In my case, it is not a secret that in 2018 I will conclude my second consecutive term as president of the councils of State and Ministers, and I will assign those responsibilities to whomever is elected,” he stressed on that occasion.
Mariela Castro, daughter of the president and a deputy to the National Assembly, said in an interview with Radio Euskadi in June of this year that “many people” do not want her father to leave power and that they are “pressuring him not to do it.”
She said that the process of succession has been being prepared in Cuba “for a long time” and that her father will leave office “because of age.” Raúl Castro is 86 years old and José Ramón Machado Ventura, second secretary of the Central Committee of the PCC, is 87.
On that occasion, Mariela Castro also mentioned several candidates for the presidency of the country and said there could be “surprises” before the expected transfer of power takes place in the Plaza of the Revolution.
The succession of Castro in power generates few speculations on Cuban streets, where most citizens assume that the next president will be someone elected by the highest spheres of power, an heir appointed by the historic generation.
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