wnol.info June 23 2018

Raul Castro's staunch ally sworn in as Cuban President

June 23 2018, 04:43 | Irvin Gilbert

The Latest: Castro says Diaz-Canel may also gain party post

The Cuban government on Wednesday selected 57-year-old First Vice President Miguel Mario Diaz Canel Bermudez as the sole candidate to succeed Raul

Cuba marked the end of an era Thursday as Miguel Diaz-Canel was formally elected as the country's new president, succeeding Raul Castro and becoming the first non-Castro to lead the island in six decades.

On Wednesday, Castro wore a dark suit in place of military fatigues and sat near Diaz-Canel as an official read out the names of proposed leaders to the 604 legislators gathered at a wood-panelled convention center in a quiet Havana suburb.

In a release issued via the Foreign Ministry, Maduro expressed his deep admiration and emotional recognition towards Raul Castro, for the leadership of his people in recent years, consolidating independence, progress and the socialist project in Cuban society.

It is the first time the island has been controlled by someone other than Raul and Fidel Castro since the brothers led the 1959 revolution, building a government that has tightly controlled much of the economy and everyday life ever since.

Raul Castro is still expected to exercise a large measure of control over the Cuban government and have the final say on important decisions.

Most Cubans know their first vice president as an uncharismatic figure who until recently maintained a public profile so low it was virtually nonexistent.

Analysts say little will change as Miguel Diaz-Canel is expected to take over the presidency in Cuba. Fidel Castro died in 2016 aged 90. Tall and gray-haired, he speaks in a soft monotone and rarely strays too far from the script in public appearances. His younger brother Raul, 86, served two terms beginning in 2008 after taking over provisionally for an ailing Fidel in 2006. Diaz-Canel was the only candidate.

As Castro got up from the seat he has occupied for the past 12 years, it was immediately taken by Diaz-Canel, a man almost 30 years his junior who has spent years climbing the party ranks.

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Cuba's National Assembly concluded a two-day session where Raul Castro stepped down after 10 years in the presidency and endorsed the election of Diaz-Canel, his handpicked successor, the BBC reported.

It was a historic, though understated, handover.

The succession took place on 50th anniversary of the USA -led Bay of Pigs invasion. Diaz-Canel takes over as the economy goes through its roughest patch since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Although he has advocated fewer restrictions on the press and a greater openness to the internet, he also has a ruthless streak, with harsh words for Cuba's dissidents and the United States. He remains head of the powerful Communist Party that oversees political and social activities.

A detente between the U.S. and Cuba, longtime adversaries, has slowed after Donald Trump became president in 2017.

Castro's moves to open the economy have largely been frozen or reversed as soon as they began to generate conspicuous shows of wealth by the new entrepreneurial class in a country officially dedicated to equality among its citizens.

"It will be a test of his political ability", he added.

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