Cuban leader Raul Castro says he will retire in 2018

Mon Feb 25, 2013 12:28am EST
 
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By Marc Frank

HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuban President Raul Castro announced on Sunday he will step down from power after his second term ends in 2018, and the new parliament named a 52-year-old rising star to become his first vice president and most visible successor.

"This will be my last term," Castro, 81, said shortly after the National Assembly elected him to a second five-year tenure.

In a surprise move, the new parliament also named Miguel Diaz-Canel as first vice president, meaning he would take over if Castro cannot serve his full term.

Diaz-Canel is a member of the political bureau who rose through the Communist Party ranks in the provinces to become the most visible possible successor to Castro.

Raul Castro starts his second term immediately, leaving him free to retire in 2018, aged 86.

Former President Fidel Castro joined the National Assembly meeting on Sunday, in a rare public appearance. Since falling ill in 2006 and ceding the presidency to his brother, the elder Castro, 86, has given up official positions except as a deputy in the National Assembly.

The new government will almost certainly be the last headed up by the Castro brothers and their generation of leaders who have ruled Cuba since they swept down from the mountains in the 1959 revolution.

Cubans and foreign governments were keenly watching whether any new, younger faces appeared among the Council of State members, in particular its first vice president and five vice presidents.   Continued...

 
Cuba's President Raul Castro speaks at the closing session of the National Assembly of the Peoples Power in Havana February 24, 2013. Castro announced on Sunday he would step down from power after his second term as president ends in 2018, and the new parliament named a 52-year-old rising star to become his first vice president and most visible successor. Castro, 81, made the announcement in a nationally broadcast speech shortly after the Cuban National Assembly elected him to a second five-year term in the opening session of the new parliament. "This will be my last term," Castro said. REUTERS/Desmond Boylan