Castro re-elected, vows socialism will outlive him

HAVANA (AP) — Elected to a fifth term as president, Fidel Castro vowed socialism in Cuba will outlive him and denounced a U.S. aid proposal for the island.
Castro’s seven-hour speech to the opening of a new session of parliament ended shortly after midnight Wednesday — its marathon length reminiscent of his speeches in the early years after his 1959 revolution.
The 601-member parliament, elected in January, opened its five-year term Tuesday by re-electing Castro and other top members of the Council of State, which works in conjunction with the Cabinet. Castro was the only presidential candidate, and all the deputies were elected unchallenged.
In his wide-ranging speech, Castro, 71, declared Cuba’s single-party communist system “untouchable” and said those who predict a “post-Castro transformation” are wrong.
Castro also denounced a proposal before the U.S. Congress to distribute limited aid through U.S. charitable organization as “humiliating.”
He ridiculed those who believe that easing the U.S. embargo of Cuba would help topple socialism by bringing greater contact with Americans.
Castro also took issue with Pope John Paul II’s calls during a January visit to Cuba to outlaw abortion and to sharply restrict divorce, although he said the government does not encourage those practices.
“We do not like divorce, nor do we like abortion,” Castro said. But Cuba would not force women to have children, nor would it “return to the Middle Ages and invent anew the chastity belt.”
He suggested Cubans should limit such practices themselves by acting “in a conscious and responsible way,” saying an outright ban “would be absurd.”
Castro has been Cuba’s unchallenged leader since 1959, even though he was only elected president in 1976.