News and Facts about Cuba

Raul Castro, Continent’s Oldest Ruler, Turns 85

, Continent’s Oldest Ruler, Turns 85 / 14ymedio

14ymedio, 3 June 2016 — Raul Castro will celebrate his 85th birthday on
Friday without anyone overshadowing him as the oldest across
the entire continent. Jose Mujica, who left the presidency of Uruguay
shortly before turning 80, has been the only one able to come close to
the Cuban president and various Peruvian media have highlighted recently
the possibility of Pedro Pablo Kuczynski’s election as president in
Sunday’s elections; at 77 he would become the oldest-ever president of
that country. Unlike Cuba’s general-president, these other two were
elected in democratic and multiparty systems.

Raul Castro would not be a rara avis in Africa or Asia, continents where
the preponderance of absolute monarchies and dictatorships allows heads
of state to reach surprising ages. This is the case of Robert Mugabe,
president of Zimbabwe who, at 92, remains in office. This patriarch of
the international leaders came to power in 1987, when he was considered
an anti-colonial hero who made an essential contribution to the
independence of his country (in 1980) and was elevated first as prime
minister and then as president. Over the years, accusations of clinging
to power through electoral fraud and repression against his opponents
(he is accused of genocide) have undermined the credibility of this old
man who is the sole ruler in the world over 90.

He is followed at a short distance by a group of leaders who are tied at
88-years-old Among these is Kim Yong-Nam, chief of state for North Korea
since 1998, with the job of president of the Supreme People’s Assembly,
although in his case the leadership is relative, considering the Supreme
Leader, Kim Yong-un. Also in this group are two kings of Asian countries
with very different paths. Bhumibol Adulyadej has been the king of
Thailand since 1946. His reign, which has lasted 69 years, is the
longest in all of history and the world. However Abdul Halim Mu’adzam
Shah, king of Malaysia only since 2011, acceded to office at a
staggering 84 years of age and is now 88.

Only one head of state in the Western Hemisphere is older than Raul
Castro, Queen Elizabeth II who turned 90 in April. The Queen of England
is a figure with notable constitutional and religious powers (she is
head of the Anglican Church), and also serves as a symbol of cohesion of
the United Kingdom and is an international ambassador for her country.
However, national and international politics are governed by Parliament
and the elected Government, leaving, in practice, symbolic functions for
the Crown.

Except for the striking case of Mugabe, being in the 90s puts an end,
one way or another, to the desire for leadership. Simon Peres, twice
prime minister and president of the State of Israel from 2007 to 2014,
left office when he was a month short of 91. Something similar happened
with Giorgio Napolitano, president of Italy who left the post in 2015
just short of 90, after nine years as head of state and for
reasons. Other long mandates that came to an end only by the
relentlessness of biology were that of President of Ethiopia, Girma
Wolde-Giorgis, who died in office at age 91, and King Abdullah of Saudi
Arabia, who died at 90, in January 2015.

Source: Raul Castro, Continent’s Oldest Ruler, Turns 85 / 14ymedio –
Translating Cuba –

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