Cuban dissidents Sunday dismissed Raúl Castro’s call for term limits, branding it an empty gesture designed only to secure an extension of the Castro brothers’ 52 years in power.

If adopted, the proposal would mean Castro would have to give up power as head of the government in 2018, when he would be 86 years old. His brother Fidel surrendered power after emergency surgery in 2006, when he was 79.

The proposal is positive but “doesn’t resolve our essential problem, which is the monopoly on power by a group whose policies have failed for 50 years,” dissident economist Oscar Espinosa Chepe said by telephone from Havana.

“More than a proposal, it’s a threat for the immense majority of the people because in this way the ruling elites are giving themselves 10 more years of totalitarian continuity,’’ human rights activist Elizardo Sanchez Santa Cruz said.

Castro said at the opening session of Congress Saturday that party leaders had decided Cuba’s lone legal political formation needed to do a better job of finding younger members for promotions to top jobs. “In that respect, we have arrived at the conclusion that it’s a good idea to limit fundamental political and government jobs to a maximum of two consecutive periods of five years,” Castro said.

Some analysts praised Castro’s talk of term limits as a hint of coming political changes and a recognition that Cuba must institutionalize its leadership structure now that those from its “historic” generation — top participants in the 1959 revolution — are in their 80s and late 70s. Fidel Castro is 84 and Raul is 79; Vice President Jose Ramon Fernandez is 87; First Vice President Jose Ramon Machado Ventura is 80; and Vice President Ramiro Valdes, the youngest and healthiest of the “historicos,” is 78.

An Associated Press dispatch said many Cubans had praised Raul Castro’s talk of term limits, but they also asked why it has taken so long to come about. “They [Fidel and Raul Castro] realized that the years take their toll, though it is a shame they have only realized it now, 50 years later,” said Miraida Solis, a 72-year-old retiree. “They are all very old and many people have been asking, ‘Where are the young people?’ ”

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Florida Republican who heads the House foreign affairs committee, said it was a “farce to suggest that some sort of term limit scheme administered by the regime would do anything to change the reality of absolute one-party control.”



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