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Fidel Castro gives rare, possible farewell speech at Cuba's Communist Party congress

By
Shawn Price
Former Cuban President Fidel Castro, shown here in 1995, gave a rare speech before his country's Communist Party congress that was both somber and defiant, and could be his farewell speech. File Photo by H. Ruckemann/UPI
Former Cuban President Fidel Castro, shown here in 1995, gave a rare speech before his country's Communist Party congress that was both somber and defiant, and could be his farewell speech. File Photo by H. Ruckemann/UPI | License Photo

HAVANA, April 20 (UPI) -- Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro said Tuesday his country's communist ideas were still valid, in what could to be his farewell speech.

Castro, 89, leader of the Cuban revolution, was visibly in frail health as he spoke on the final day of the island nation's Communist Party congress. He was in turns somber and defiant, acknowledging his age but still trumpeting communist ideals.

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"I'll be 90 years old soon," Castro said. "Soon I'll be like all the others."

"The time will come for all of us," he said. "But the ideas of the Cuban communists will remain as proof on this planet that if they are worked at with fervor and dignity, they can produce the material and cultural goods that human beings need, and we need to fight without truce to obtain them."

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Castro's speech was part of Cuba's aging leadership on display, as his younger brother and current President Raul, 84, is expected to step down in 2018. But it was announced he would remain party secretary, a very powerful position considered as powerful as president, for another five years. And Raul's deputy, Jose Ramon Machado Ventura, is 85.

President Castro proposed during the congress that 60 years of age should be the age limit for joining the party's central committee, but not just yet -- a five-year transitional period should take place first.

The announcements meant next generation Cuban leadership will likely have to wait before newly thawing relations with the United States will yield real reform.

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But Raul closed the congress -- held every five years -- with a ray of hope for younger leaders, saying "This seventh congress will be the last one led by the historic generation."

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