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Party leaders mull change in Cuba

By Patrick Oppmann, CNN
updated 7:59 PM EST, Sat January 28, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A two-day meeting brings together 811 delegates
  • They are expected to weigh term limits for top leaders
  • Former president Fidel Castro ruled Cuba for nearly half a century

Havana, Cuba (CNN) -- Leading members of Cuba's Communist party on Saturday met to discuss the future of the island's revolution, including the possibility of term limits for top officials.

The two-day meeting, which was closed to the international press, brought together 811 delegates to mull changes to Cuba's ruling Communist party.

"We shall not act temporarily, but build something essential and permanent so that the Communist party will always meet the challenges of each historic moment," said Cuban Vice President Jose Ramon Machado Ventura in a video clip posted on a government website.

Official government pictures showed Cuban President Raul Castro attending the meeting in a gray suit. Castro, 80, has previously said the island's single party government needed to do more to promote younger leaders.

Castro, who succeeded his brother Fidel as president in 2008, has suggested that leaders might be restricted to two five-year terms.

Fidel Castro, 85, ruled Cuba for nearly half a century before stepping down.

At a party meeting last year, officials announced economic reforms including wide-scale layoffs and permitting Cubans to have the ability to start their own small businesses.

The reforms are intended to take thousands off the state's payroll while generating taxes. Cubans were also allowed greater freedom to sell their homes and cars.

But many Cubans complained the economic reforms did not go far enough to fix the island's ailing economy and that restrictions on international travel are still too stringent.

Others, including Raul Castro's daughter, Mariela, said they hoped the conference would take up the issue of legalizing same-sex civil unions in Cuba.

The president, however, in January cautioned against "illusions" and high hopes over what the party conference would suggest to the country's parliament, which would then turn the proposals into law.

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