Cuba’s National Assembly begins meeting to chose Castro successor

Cuba's new president Miguel Diaz-Canel. (Photo: AFP)
Cuban First Vice President Miguel Diaz-Canel. (Photo: AFP)

HAVANA, Cuba (AFP) — Cuba’s National Assembly on Wednesday began a historic two-day meeting to elect a successor to President Raul Castro, whose departure will end his family’s six-decade grip on power.

Stepping down at the age of 86, Castro will leave the way open for a new generation of leaders, with Assembly members widely expected to vote in his successor of choice, First Vice President Miguel Diaz-Canel.

A silver-haired 57-year-old, Diaz-Canel has spent decades climbing the party ranks, becoming Castro’s right-hand man in 2013.

At the two-day meeting, which began early on Wednesday, the 605-seat National Assembly is to vote in a new Council of State, which counts 31 members and whose head will automatically become president.

Although the session was initially planned for Thursday, the decision was taken earlier this week to extend it across two days “to facilitate the procedures during an event of such significance.”

The session is closed to the press and no details have been given about the program.

Although the vote could take place on Wednesday, the new president’s name is not expected to be made public until Thursday, which is April 19 — a date heavy with symbolism.

It falls on the 57th anniversary of the Bay of Pigs invasion, when the CIA tried to overthrow Castro in 1961, an episode Havana has long proclaimed as American imperialism’s first great defeat in Latin America.

Raul Castro has been in power since 2006, when he took over after illness sidelined his brother Fidel, who seized power in the 1959 revolution.

Between them, the Castro brothers ruled Cuba for nearly 60 years, making the Caribbean island a key player in the Cold War and helping keep communism afloat despite the collapse of the Soviet Union.



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