Cuba delays municipal elections due to Irma devastation

A view of an apartment where two people have died when the walls collapsed during the passage of Hurricane Irma, according to state-run media, in Havana, Cuba, September 15, 2017. Picture taken on September 15, 2017. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini

HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuba is postponing municipal elections by a month to Nov. 26 because of the devastation wrought on the Caribbean island by Hurricane Irma, its Council of State said in an electoral notice published in the ruling Granma Party newspaper on Tuesday.

The elections were coming at an already difficult time for Cuba as an economic reform program appears stalled, aid from key ally Venezuela shrinks, and the Trump administration threatens.

Then Irma swept across the island from east to west, tearing off roofs, damaging the power grid and crops, ripping up trees and bringing a violent storm surge to many coastal towns.

The Council of State said it was delaying the municipal vote, originally slated for Oct. 22, so Cubans could focus their efforts on the recovery.

It was not clear if this would result in the delay of provincial and national elections, which are set to culminate in the transfer of power next year from Raul Castro to a new president.

Castro, younger brother and successor to Fidel Castro, who died in November, will nonetheless retain a grip on power as head of the Communist Party, the only legal party in Cuba.

Reporting by Sarah Marsh; Editing by Steve Orlofsky