Cuba postpones historic replacement of Castro
HAVANA – Reuters
Communist-run Cuba extended the term of its current leadership to April on Dec. 21, signaling a two-month delay in the historic handover from Raul Castro to a new president, while announcing tighter regulations on the non-state sector.
Castro, 86, was originally set to step down in February after two consecutive terms, ending nearly 60 years of Castro brothers’ rule and marking a transition from the leaders of the 1959 revolution to a new, younger generation.
The National Assembly, however, said that devastation wrought by Hurricane Irma in September had caused a delay to the start of the political cycle in which voters and electoral commissions pick delegates of municipal, provincial and national assemblies who then select a Council of State and president.
As a result, the assembly, which is holding one of its twice-yearly meetings, extended its term through to April 19.
“When the National Assembly is constituted, I will have concluded my second and last mandate, and Cuba will have a new president,” Castro said, according to state-run media.
“All that is left for me is to wish you and our people a happy new year,” he said.
Castro, who officially took over the presidency from his late, older brother, Fidel Castro, in 2008, is set to remain head of the Communist Party, the only legal party in Cuba and its guiding force.
His heir apparent, First Vice President Miguel Diaz-Canel, 57, was born the year after the revolution but has argued for the need to defend its achievements and provide continuity. Analysts say Diaz-Canel is unlikely to reveal his true colors until he is designated president, and even then his room to maneuver could be limited by the need to establish himself as a legitimate successor to the “historic generation.