Fidel Castro is no longer the first secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba, he let slip the other day, and when he saw that he made news, he accepted responsibility but seemed to wonder what all the fuss was about.
Well, it might be because when you’re head of the party in Cuba, you are in charge of the “organized vanguard of the Cuban nation” and “the highest ruling force of the society and the State,” the country’s constitution says.
Higher, in other words, than the government itself.
When he fell ill in 2006 Fidel issued a statement, read on television by his then-aide-de-camp Carlos Valenciaga, in which he “delegated” a series of government functions to his brother and others. (Correction: He delegated his party post too; statement here.)
His brother took over as President in 2008, but Fidel seemed to remain in charge of the party, and the party’s website continues to list him as top leader even today. In his commentary today he says it never crossed his mind that he would need to resign formally.
Fidel being Fidel and the system being what it is, there may be no practical impact to this. It remains to be seen if there will be practical impact to any leadership changes made at next month’s party congress – at minimum, we assume, the naming of Fidel’s replacement as first secretary. As for the main agenda at that meeting – economic policy – there’s plenty.