Monday, February 4, 2013

Raul Castro - Fidel Castro Appears Cuban Polling Station World News

The retired Cuban leader Fidel Castro has made his longest public appearance since 2010, turning up to vote in the general election and chatting with wellwishers and Cuban reporters.

Castro had voted from his home in three previous elections since taking ill in 2006 and ceding power to his brother Raul two years later.

A stooped, white-bearded Castro, 86, was seen on state-run television as he cast his ballot in the late afternoon in Havana.

The announcer said Castro talked about efforts to reform the economy, Latin American integration, Venezuelan President Hugo Ch vez and other matters.

He was heard in a weak voice praising popular participation in Sunday's election. "The people are truly revolutionary, they have really sacrificed. We don't have to prove it, history will. Fifty years of the blockade and they haven't given in," he said.

Cubans went to the polls to elect a Communist party-selected slate of 612 deputies to the national assembly and more than 1,000 delegates to provincial assemblies.

President Raul Castro and other leaders were shown on television casting their ballots and commenting on the importance of the election as a show of support for reforms and independence from the United States.

Raul Castro is decentralising the state-dominated economy, allowing more space for private initiative in agriculture and retail services, and has lifted many restrictions on personal freedoms, such as travel and buying and selling homes and cars.

He has also introduced term limits of two five-year stints for top government posts but has drawn the line at legalising other political parties and contested elections. "Renouncing the principle of a single party would be equal to legalising one or more imperialist parties," he said at a party conference last year.

About 95% of 's 8.7 million residents over 16 were expected to vote..

The new assembly will meet this month to approve a party-proposed slate for the council of state, which Raul Castro is expected to head for his second term.

The general election cycle began last year with the election of more than 15,000 ward delegates in the only vote in which residents choose between two or more candidates. Party-controlled commissions then selected candidates for provincial assemblies and the single-chamber national assembly, at least 50% of whom must be ward delegates and the remainder officials and personalities from the arts, sports and other sectors.

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