Published: Thu, April 19, 2018
Global | By Craig Ferguson

Castro nears retirement as Cuban president; lawmakers vote on successor

Castro nears retirement as Cuban president; lawmakers vote on successor

The National Assembly, the country's legislative body, will vote on the nomination but Mr Díaz-Canel is nearly certain to be confirmed.

The new president will succeed 86-year-old Raul Castro, who is resigning after two five-year terms.

On Wednesday, the two men appeared smiling and in good spirits at the opening of the inaugural session of the Assembly that was elected last month.

"On behalf of the National Nominating Committee, I have the responsibility and honor to propose to you comrade Miguel Mario Diaz-Canel Bermudez as President of the Council of State and Ministers of the Republic of Cuba", commission president Gisela Duarte told the Assembly, effectively ending any suspense over the identity of Cuba's new leader.

Miguel Diaz-Canel, Cuba's presidential designate, is from a younger generation of leaders and has advocated modernising the island.

Although this week's assembly is promoting younger government leaders, Castro and other elders of the revolution will retain considerable power in their roles as the top leaders of the Communist Party at least until a party congress set for 2021.

Cuba's parliament, however, won't officially reveal the results of the vote until it readjourns Thursday.

A man who is close to Raul Castro has been selected as the sole candidate to lead Cuba, and 7News spoke with several Little Havana residents about the change.

Under the Cuban Constitution, the president of the State Council is the head of state and government.

Since the 1959 revolution, when Fidel Castro seized power on the Caribbean island, Cubans have only known one handover of power.

Gathered at a convention center in a leafy Havana suburb, 605 legislators in the rubber stamp national assembly will select 30 other members of Cuba's state council along with the replacement for Castro, who took over from his brother, Fidel, in 2008. Only one, 85-year-old Ramiro Valdez, was among the revolutionaries who fought with the Castros in the late 1950s in the eastern Sierra Maestra mountains.

Wednesday's announcement confirms the long-held expectation that Diaz-Canel would take over from Castro in a transition meant to ensure that the country's single-party system outlasts the aging revolutionaries who created it. "Strategically, Diaz-Canel must confront renewed hostility from the US administration".

Williams noted that Diaz-Canel is largely an enigma - at some points making statements appearing to be progressive on issues like Internet access and LGBT issues, but also expressing a hard line on U.S. -Cuba relations and freedom of speech. At Castro's side in the party leadership will be fellow old-guard revolutionary Jose Ramon Machado Ventura, 87.

Given Diaz-Canel that lacks the clout of Fidel and Raul Castro as historic leaders of the revolution, his ability to command authority will depend on the economy improving, analysts say.

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