HAVANA – President Raul Castro, set to step down in a week, attended a group birthday party at a school for special needs children in Havana, Cuban state media said on Thursday.
“I am thrilled. When I see things like this my admiration for Fidel grows, since he founded this school in 1989, a very difficult year for our country, at a time when we didn’t even know how we were going to subsist,” the president said, as reported by Granma, the official Communist Party newspaper.
The president was referring to his late older brother and predecessor, Fidel Castro (1926-2016).
Photographs in the newspaper show the 86-year-old Raul Castro dressed in his usual military uniform talking to some of the attendees at the 15th-birthday party, which has become a tradition at the school.
“For schools like this we are prepared to give it our all. I think this is one of the most wonderful, beautiful and just projects created by the Revolution,” Castro said after congratulating the 22 teenagers who were celebrating their birthday.
The president promised the students that he would return next year to celebrate the school’s 30th anniversary.
Founded by Fidel Castro on Dec. 31, 1989, the Solidaridad con Panama school offers education to 171 special needs children from around the country.
After serving two five-year terms, Raul Castro will hand over power on April 19, when the National Assembly will elect a new president.
This will be a historic moment on the island, where for the first time in 60 years the government will be headed by someone not belonging to the Castro family.
Raul Castro will most likely hand over to Vice President Miguel Diaz-Canel, although he will continue to be the first secretary of the ruling Communist Party until the next party congress, scheduled for 2021.