17 Apr 2011

Castro seeks reform in Cuban government

4:58 pm on 17 April 2011

Cuban President Raul Castro says top political positions should be limited to two five-year terms and promised 'systematic rejuvenation' of the government.

Mr Castro gave a two and a half hour speech at the start of the first Congress of Cuba's ruling Communist Party in 14 years.

He said the party leadership was in need of renewal and should subject itself to severe self-criticism reports the BBC.

Mr Castro, 79, made it clear the proposals would apply to himself.

The Congress has been called to ratify a series of market reforms.

Free education and healthcare would still be guaranteed, but mass subsidies of basic goods would be removed and social spending would be 'rationalised'.

President Castro said 200,000 people had already registered as self-employed since the changes were announced last October, doubling the number of Cubans working for themselves.

But he insisted the socialist character of Cuba would be 'irreversible' and warned the accumulation of property would not be allowed.

Bay of Pigs anniversary marked

Cuba is marking the 50th anniversary of its victory over American-backed exiles at the Bay of Pigs.

Troops and armoured vehicles paraded through Revolution Square in Havana as fighter jets roared across the sky on Saturday and hundreds of thousands of civilians waved flags.

Former leader Fidel Castro, who is 84 and ailing, did not attend, though his name was frequently invoked.

He was succeeded by his brother Raul Castro and between them they have ruled Cuba for 52 years.

On 17 April, 1961, a force of Cuban exiles, trained by the CIA and backed by US ships and planes, came ashore at the Bay of Pigs 160km southeast of Havana in an attempt to spark a counter-revolution.

Fidel Castro rallied thousands of troops and citizens to the battle and two days later declared victory.