HAVANA -- Cuba's Communist Party stuck with a slate of silver-haired icons of the revolution Tuesday to spearhead a last-ditch effort to save the island's sputtering economy -- surprising those who had taken to heart declarations by Raúl and Fidel Castro that it was time to give way to a new generation of leaders.
Delegates to a key Party Congress picked Raúl, 79, to replace his ailing brother at the helm, while veterans moved up to the No. 2 and 3 positions. Three somewhat younger politicians were named to lesser roles in the leadership council, but it remained dominated by men who came of age before television, let alone the Internet.
Fidel Castro made a surprise appearance, to thunderous applause from delegates, many of whom could be seen crying as he was helped to his place on stage by a young aide.
Wearing a blue track suit over a checked shirt, the revolutionary leader looked unsteady on his feet as he clutched the aide's arm. He became more animated as the proceedings continued, especially when Raúl's name was read out by an official announcing members of the Central Committee. Fidel, 84, was left off the leadership slate for the first time.
But Raúl said his brother needed no formal title to continue being the country's guiding light. "Fidel is Fidel," he said.
In a speech closing out the Congress, Raúl acknowledged the lack of fresh faces, saying the country had failed to develop young leaders because of errors committed in the past, including by him and his brother.
"We have kept various veterans of the historic generation, and that is logical due to the consequences of the mistakes that have been made in this area," he told 1,000 delegates gathered in a sprawling Havana convention center.
Named party second secretary was Jose Ramon Machado Ventura, 80, who set up field hospitals when the Castros, as young rebels, fought to topple Fulgencio Batista. Ramiro Val-des, 78, who was with the brothers when they launched the revolution from the Granma yacht in 1956, took the No. 3 spot. A larger and less influential body, the Central Committee, was chock full of young women and Afro-Cubans, as well as grizzled armed forces generals and members of the old guard.
Three relatively young people were elected to the leadership council, including Marino Murillo, 50, a former economy minister, the current economy minister, Adel Izquierdo, 65, and Lazara Mercedes Lopez Acea, 46, the only woman.