Published: Fri, April 20, 2018
World | By Camille Rivera

Diaz-Canel succeeds Raul Castro as Cuba's president

Diaz-Canel succeeds Raul Castro as Cuba's president

Raul Castro served as president for two terms since 2008.

President Miguel Diaz Canel with the outgoing leader Raul Castro. "Putin stressed that Russian Federation highly assess its relations with Cuba that are based on a long tradition of friendship and mutual respect, and confirmed that Russian Federation is ready to continue strengthening strategic partnership with Cuba and constructive cooperation in all spheres", the Kremlin noted.

But now, he's tasked with continuing the course set forth by the Castro brothers as the first person outside the family to rule over Cuba in nearly 60 years. "Putin highlighted that Castro is much respected in Russian Federation and is considered a true friend of the nation, a wise and forward-looking politician who has contributed to the resolution of many crucial social and economic issues in Cuba".

Cuba officially has a new head of state with Miguel Diaz-Canel.

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Then the 86-year-old Castro raised his successor's left arm in the air in victory, prompting another wave of applause from the delegates - some of whom were in civilian attire, while others wore military fatigues.

"The people have given this assembly the mandate to provide continuity to the Cuban Revolution during a crucial, historic moment that will be defined by all that we achieve in the advance of the modernization of our social and economic model", Diaz-Canel said.

Díaz-Canel dedicated "the first thought to the historical generation that made the revolution" and pointed out that "Cuba expects us to be like them".

Once sworn in, Diaz-Canel will be tasked with pursuing reforms begun by Castro to open up the country's economy to small private entrepreneurs and reach a rapprochement with its Cold War arch-enemy, the US.

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A poster of Fidel Castro and Cuba's President Raul Castro stands in Havana, Cuba, Wednesday, April 18, 2018.

Castro will also still be a member of the National Assembly and, even if he is no longer president, the most powerful public figure on the island.

The relatively unknown Diaz-Canel previously served as a minister of higher education and vice-president. Ballots offer only the option of approval or disapproval and candidates generally receive more than 95 percent of the votes in their favor. Only one, 85-year-old Ramiro Valdez, was among the revolutionaries who fought with the Castros in the late 1950s in the eastern Sierra Maestra mountains.

Diaz-Canel will also inherit a youthful population hungry for change on the Caribbean island - one of the world's last outposts of Communism since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Commentators on state television and online offered lengthy explanations of why Cuba's single-party politics and socialist economy are superior to multi-party democracy and free markets, and assured Cubans that no fundamental changes were occurring, despite some new faces at the top.

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