by Yosley Carrero
HAVANA, April 16 (Xinhua) -- The Eighth Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC) kicked off Friday at Havana's Convention Center, chaired by Raul Castro, first secretary of the PCC's Central Committee, and Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel.
During the presentation of the Central Report to the Eighth Congress of the PCC, Castro said that Cuba has preserved important social achievements in education, healthcare and social security, despite the intensification of the U.S. embargo against the island.
Castro, 89, expressed his "will to develop a respectful dialogue and build a new type of relationship with the United States," saying, "Cuba will not give up on the principles of the Revolution and socialism."
He also called for improving the performance of the local economy and consolidating relations with governments and parties from different nations, including China.
"As far as I am concerned, my work as the first secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba has come to an end, with the satisfaction of having accomplished my duty and with confidence in the future of the homeland," he added.
The Congress takes place as the island marks the 60th anniversary of the victory against the U.S.-backed Bay of Pigs invasion and the declaration of Cuban socialism.
With senior party leaders and delegates from all over the island in attendance, the meeting is scheduled to conclude on Monday.
Addressing the audience during the opening speech, Jose Ramon Machado Ventura, second secretary of the Central Committee of PCC, said that the political organization "guarantees national unity and represents the ideals of dignity, justice and social independence" for which generations of Cuban patriots have fought.
Wearing face masks and abiding by social distancing guidelines, delegates discussed ideology, updating of the Cuban model, internal functioning of the PCC as well as the economic transformations implemented over the past five years since the last party congress.
"Dreaming and pushing a country forward: Our eighth Congress of the PCC starts today, the congress of continuity. It is here where ideas are rooted, history is acknowledged and the future is discussed. We are Cuba, we are continuity," Diaz-Canel said on Twitter earlier on Friday.
Iroel Sanchez, a Cuban political commentator, told Xinhua that the Cuban Revolution will not only continue to stand on its own feet but actually has a lot to offer to a world that needs the Caribbean nation's example.
"We have many challenges ahead, but the Cuban people have shown evidence of huge reservoirs of intelligence and humanism instilled in it by socialism," he said.
Nationwide, Cubans followed news on the opening ceremony of the Congress through state media's coverage. Among them is PCC member Sonia Cruz, a 60-year-old state employee from Havana's 10 de Octubre district.
"This is a historic Congress for Cubans who are called to continue defending the social achievements of our socialist system," she said, adding, "The Communist Party of Cuba guarantees unity and continuity of the Cuban Revolution."