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Castro hails 'new generation' of Cuba leaders, but appoints old guard

José Ramón Machado Ventura, 80, will fill Raul Castro's old spot as No. 2 in power, while Ramiro Valdes will take over the No. 3 role. Both have collaborated with the Fidel and Raul Castro since at least the 1950s.

Fidel Castro, left, and Cuba's President Raul Castro talked with each other during the 6th Communist Party Congress in Havana, Cuba on Tuesday. Raul Castro was named first secretary of Cuba's Communist Party on Tuesday, with his brother Fidel not included in the leadership for the first time since the party's creation 46 years ago.

Javier Galeano/AP

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The theme of the Sixth Party Congress in Cuba seemed clear enough: President Raul Castro opened the summit Saturday saying that a new generation of Cuban politicians was needed to secure the socialist revolution.

Even former Cuban leader Fidel Castro seemed to embrace the message. “The new generation is called to rectify and change without hesitation all that must be rectified and changed,” he wrote in the state newspaper Granma.

But by the time the Congress wrapped up Tuesday, new leaders were named to the Communist Party, and none of the top three positions went to anyone younger than 78, leaving the old guard in power and frustrating those Cubans eager for a political shakeup.

Raul Castro was saying they needed to bring in new leadership, bring the new generation forward,” says Wayne Smith, a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy in Washington and former US diplomat in Cuba. “But he has named his longtime No. 2 to be No. 2.”

The Congress was significant because Fidel Castro was not named the head of the party for the first time since it was formed in 1965. Instead Raul Castro will officially assume that role.

Cuban watchers were eager to see if a younger leader would be chosen as Raul Castro’s longtime position as second secretary. But veteran José Ramón Machado Ventura, 80, will take the spot, while Ramiro Valdes will take over the No. 3 role. Both have collaborated with the Castros since at least the 1950s.

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