HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuban President Raul Castro has postponed what was to have been the ruling Communist Party’s first congress in 12 years, saying it may be the last under the aging “historic leadership of the revolution” and must be done right, state-run media reported on Friday.
Castro said the party has to carefully analyze economic matters to determine “what must be perfected and even eliminated” as Cuba moves into the future without him or brother Fidel Castro at the helm, according to the newspaper Granma.
The congress, where direction is set for the country’s future, was expected to take place at the end of this year. No new date has been set.
The congress has been heavily anticipated because, among other things, it will determine if Fidel Castro, 82, stays on as head of the party.
Granma quoted Raul Castro, who spoke to the party’s central committee, as saying, “Because of the laws of life, this will be the last (congress) led by the historic leadership of the revolution,” referring to age and time.
Raul Castro, 78, replaced Fidel Castro as president last year but the elder Castro, who ran Cuba for 49 years after taking power in the 1959 revolution, has held on to the leadership of the Communist Party, the only legal political party on the island.
Fidel Castro has not been seen in public since undergoing abdominal surgery three years ago but still is involved in the government and writes columns for state-run media.
Raul Castro said the congress, which would be the sixth in the party’s history, would be held only when the party has completed preparations and the public has been consulted.
“It has to be the people, with the party at the vanguard, that decides” future direction, he said.
Raul Castro is trying to squeeze more productivity out of Cuba’s socialist economy while at the same time fighting to keep it afloat in the face of the global economic crisis.
Granma said Economy and Planning Minister Marino Murillo Jorge told the central committee that the 2009 economic growth forecast had been lowered again, to 1.7 percent.
That was down from 2.5 percent, which was a revision from the original forecast of 6 percent growth for the year.
Raul Castro has tweaked the system and reshuffled his cabinet but his only major economic reform so far has been in agriculture, where he is putting more state land in the hands of private farmers.
Reporting by Jeff Franks; editing by Bill Trott