Havana, Feb 25: Raul Castro, President of Cuba and brother of the nation's legendary leader Fidel, said on Sunday that he would step down from the office after his second term ended in 2013. The National Assembly, which named Castro as the President, also named Miguel Diaz-Canel, 52, as his first vice-president and a likely successor.
Diaz-Canel is a member of the political bureau who rose through the Communist Party ranks in the provinces to emerge as the probable leader of the island-nation which had been at the centre stage of the post-Second World War world politics more many years.
Former President Fidel, who ceded the presidency to his brother in 2006 after falling ill, was also present at the National Assembly meeting on Sunday. The elder Castro, 86, has given up all official positions except that of a deputy in the assembly.
Raul Castro's new term will certainly mean the end of the era of the Castro brothers, and their generation of leaders who have ruled Cuba since the 1959 revolution which had overthrown the regime of Fulgencio Batista.
People of Cuba and also foreign observers were closely watching whether r the copuntry would get a new set of leaders from among the Council of State members. They have perhaps found an answer in Diaz-Canel, who replaced former vice-president Jose Machado-Ventura, 82. The latter will continue as one of the five vice-presidents.
Commander of the Revolution Ramiro Valdes and Gladys Bejerano, the comptroller general, were also re-elected as vice presidents. They are aged 80 and 66, respectively.
Castro's announcement, however, did not surprise to Cuban exiles in Miami. They said it would have been better had he resigned on Sunday itself and called for democratic elections.
Castro, meanwhile, re-asserted that senior leaders should not hold office for more than two five-year terms.
He said today the country was faced with a situation where there was not enough well-trained replacements for veterans and it was embarrassing that the country could not resolve the issue even after 50 years.