Skooter report 02/25/13
He will step down at the end of his second term in 2018, Cuban President Raul Castro has said, following his re-election by the National Assembly.
In 2008, Mr Raul Castro, 81, formally took over the presidency, two years after replacing his ailing brother Fidel.
Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez, 52, was chosen as Mr. Castro’s first vice-president by the Communist assembly, whose members ran for office unopposed. He is likely seen as Raul Castro’s successor.
The 86-year-old, who ruled Cuba for five decades, made a rare public appearance on Sunday at the opening session of the assembly in the capital Havana. Since 1959 revolution, the brothers have been running Cuba under one-party system which got rid of the US-backed dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista.
Following his re-election on Sunday, Raul Castro addressing the assembly said that this will be his last term. This is the first time he publicly said he would be relinquishing the presidency in 2018. Earlier he had called for a two-term limit and age caps for political offices, including the presidency.
During his first term in power, Raul Castro relaxed some restrictions on personal freedoms by lifting bans on mobile phones and home computers, and done away the need of citizens to buy expensive exit visas when travelling abroad as tourists.
But he stressed in his recent speech, he said he was not chosen to be president to restore capitalism in Cuba, he was elected to defend, maintain and continue to perfect socialism.
Economically since the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1991, his country has struggled and recently depends heavily on the support of the left-wing government of Hugo Chavez of Venezuela.
It is well-known that Havana and the US relationship remain not in good term or rather hostile; the two countries have no diplomatic relations and a decades-long American economic blockade is still in effect.
Diaz-Canel Bermudez is an electrical engineer by training; he rose through the Communist party ranks in the provinces and at one time served as education minister. If Raul Castro is unable to serve his second full term in office, he would take over the top post.
Fidel Castro was last seen in public earlier this month and appeared frail and stooped at the time, correspondents said. The older Castro has quit all his official positions, except his post as the assembly’s deputy leader.