HAVANA TIMES — The new Cuban parliament today ratified Raul Castro as president for another five years. He first took that office in 2006 following the illness of his brother, Fidel, reported DPA news.
Castro, 81, announced to the country’s parliament that he will leave office in 2018. “I wish to clarify that in my case, irrespective of when a constitution reform on term limits takes place, this will be my last period,” he said today when assuming his second five-year term.
His departure therefore doesn’t depend on when the constitutional amendment is approved establishing term limits of two five-year terms for senior-level officials.
Castro, who came to power in 2006 following the illness of his brother, officially assumed his first term in February 2008.
Today, the parliament also elected Miguel Diaz-Canel (a relatively young 52-year-old politician) as first vice president of the new 31-member Council of State.
Raul Castro praised Diaz-Canel as the person best suited to ensure “continuity” and “stability” in case of “any contingency” on the island owing to “the loss of the highest leadership.”
This new “number two” of the government is replacing Jose Ramon Machado Ventura, 82, who was one of the “historicos” of the Cuban Revolution. Diaz-Canel thus becomes the youngest face in the upper echelons of power.
“This decision is of particular historical significance because it represents a defining step in shaping the future direction of the country,” said Raul Castro, following the appointment of Diaz-Canel.
Raul Castro praised the new first Vice-president Miguel Diaz-Canel as the person best suited to ensure “continuity” and “stability” in case of “any contingency” on the island owing to “the loss of the highest leadership.”
The inaugural session was also attended by former president Fidel Castro, 86, who hadn’t appeared before the legislative body since August 2010.
Raul Castro had repeatedly stressed the need to rejuvenate the governmental apparatus because “time is short.” In April 2011, the younger Castro acknowledged that the country didn’t have a “reserve of properly prepared substitutes.”
In the inaugural session today, the assembly also elected Esteban Lazo as president of the parliament. Lazo, 68, replaces Ricardo Alarcon, who had served in that post for two decades.
Lazo — a deputy since 1981 and considered one of the hardliners of the Communist Party of Cuba — had up until now served as one of the vice presidents of the Council of State, a position he had held since 1992.
Read Raul Castro’s acceptance speech (available thus far only in Spanish).