Cuban preside Raúl Castro, 81, announced that he will retire after the end of his second five-year-term in office in 2018. Castro took over the top office from his ailing older brother, Fidel, in 2006. The brothers have been the head of the island nation’s government since the 1959 Cuban Revolution which overthrew the US-backed dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista.
In a surprise move by the new parliament, Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez was named the vice president. Diaz-Canel, 52, is a member of the political department and now is seen as the visible successor to the Castro legacy.
Fidel, 86, made a rare public appearance at the opening session of the National Assembly in Havana where he still acts as the deputy of the assembly.
Many Cuban exiles in Miami were not shocked by the retirement report. Alfredo Duran, a Cuban-American lawyer and moderate exile leader in Miami, said, "It's no big news. It would have been big news if he resigned today and called for democratic elections." He added, "I wasn't worried about him being around after 2018."
In an effort to promote the younger generation, Raúl has repeatedly suggested that senior officials should have only more two five-year terms in office. At a Communist Party Congress in 2011, Castro said, "Although we kept on trying to promote young people to senior positions, life proved that we did not always make the best choice."
For his accomplishments, Castro noted the makeup of the new Council of State. 490 of the 612 deputies who were elected on Feb. 3 were born after the Cuban revolution. Within the new Council, 41.1 percent are women and 38.6 percent were of black or mixed backgrounds.
In a party summit in 2011, a 300-point plan was implemented to update the country’s aging Soviet-style economic system. Castro has encouraged small retail and farming businesses and has given more autonomy to state companies. The plan also includes moves to open the country for foreign investment.
Cuba has been struggling economically with the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. It is dependent on its economic and political relations with oil-rich Venezuela and its ruler, Hugo Chavez. Chavez recently returned to Venezuela after spending a few months in Cuba recovering from cancer treatment.