World News

Cuba confirms new president as Castro family steps out of limelight

Cuba confirms new president as Castro family steps out of limelight

A 57-year-old bureaucrat will take Raul Castro's place as the president of Cuba on Thursday as a government led by a single family for six decades tries to ensure the long-term survival of one of the world's last communist states.

"The mandate given by the people to this legislature is to continue the Cuban revolution at this crucial historic moment, which will be marked by what we must do to implement the economic model" put in place by Castro, he said.

Facing biological reality but still active and apparently healthy, Mr Castro is stepping down as president in an effort to guarantee that new leaders can maintain the government's grip on power in the face of economic stagnation, an ageing population and increasing disenchantment among younger generations.

The National Assembly swore in Mr Diaz-Canel, with 603 out of 604 officials present voting for the 57-year old, marking a generational shift from 86-year old Mr Castro.

And he noted he would have Raul Castro as a guide - a nod to those veterans of the revolution with concerns that their socialist legacy may be buried by the tide of reform.

Although Castro was elected a lawmaker, he won't be part of the Council of State.

Miguel Diaz-Canel was officially named as the new leader of Cuba on Thursday, one day after a vote in the country's National Assembly.

Diaz-Canel is seen as a loyalist of the Communist Party, which is designated by the constitution as Cuba's guiding political force, and he has worked his way up the party's ranks over three decades. He became higher education minister in 2009 before moving into the vice presidency.

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"The significance of this event can not be overstated".

The party selected six vice presidents, only one of whom, Ramiro Valdes Menendez, 85, fought in the revolution. "The new leadership is composed of individuals who did not participate directly in the armed insurrection against the prior government of Fulgencio Batista and whose life experience is vastly different from the founding members of the Cuban government", said Pedro Freyre, a Miami lawyer who has represented cruise lines and other USA companies that do business with Cuba.

Juan Esteban Lazo Hernandez was re-elected president of the National Assembly.

Legislators erupted in applause Wednesday morning as Castro entered the hall in a dark suit, accompanied by Miguel Diaz-Canel, his expected successor.

He said there would be no compromise in Cuba's foreign policy, which is marked by volatile relations with the United States.

That's probably his greatest legacy, said LeoGrande.

"He broke the psychological barrier with more market-oriented reforms", said LeoGrande, "but it is unfinished business".


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