Mon | May 21, 2018

Diaz-Canel replaces Raul Castro as Cuba's president

Published:Friday | April 20, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Cuba's new president Miguel Diaz-Canel (left) and former president Raul Castro, raise their arms after Diaz-Canel was elected as the island nation's new president, at the National Assembly in Havana, Cuba yesterday.

HAVANA (AP):

Raul Castro said yesterday that he expected 57-year-old Miguel Mario Diaz-Canel Bermudez to serve two five-year terms as president and eventually take Castro's place as head of the Communist Party, potentially dominating Cuban politics until 2031.

It was the first time Castro has laid out a clear vision for the nation's power structure after his retirement or death, a vision in which Diaz-Canel is Castro's true successor as total leader of Cuba.

Castro left the presidency yesterday after 12 years in office when the National Assembly approved Diaz-Canel's nomination as the candidate for the top government position. Diaz-Canel told the nation that Castro, 86, would remain the country's ultimate authority as head of the Communist Party.

Speaking after Diaz-Canel, Castro said he expected the younger man to become first secretary of the party after Castro retires from the position in 2021.

"From that point on, I will be just another soldier defending this revolution," Castro said.

Castro indicated that he expected Diaz-Canel to serve two five-year terms as head of the party, saying he envisioned Diaz-Canel guiding his own successor for three years after leaving the presidency in 2028.

In his half-hour speech to the nation, the new president pledged to preserve the island's communist system while gradually reforming the economy and making the government more responsive to the people.

"The people have given this assembly the mandate to provide continuity to the Cuban Revolution during a crucial, historic moment that will be defined by all that we achieve in the advance of the modernization of our social and economic model," Diaz-Canel said.

He said Cuba was, as always, prepared to negotiate with the United States but unwilling to cede to any of Washington's demands for internal change.

He emphasised that reforms would follow a 12-year-plan laid out by the National Assembly and Communist Party that would allow moderate growth of private enterprise, while maintaining the important sectors of the economy in the hands of the state.