Diaz-Canel replaces Raul Castro as Cuban president

Cuba President Raul Castro replaced by Miguel Diaz-Canel as island's leader
Diaz-Canel replaces Raul Castro as Cuba's president, marking end of an era
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20 April, 2018

Miguel Díaz-Canel has been sworn in as Cuba's new president, replacing Raúl Castro who took over from his ailing brother Fidel in 2006.

As the Vice President under the previous administration, Diaz-Canel spearheaded efforts to roll out telecom networks across Cuba, but he is not expected to change the course of the administration prescribed by his predecessor.

He also gave a strident speech that emphasized the need to modernize the island's economy.

Diaz-Canel was elected in a landmark vote of the National Assembly a day before his 58th birthday. Diaz-Canel and Castro embraced, and Castro left the stage.

The new president saluted and hugged his predecessor, the 86-year-old Raúl Castro, who is semi-retiring.

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.

With Mr Castro watching from the audience, Mr Diaz-Canel made clear he would defer to the man who, along with his brother Fidel, founded and ruled for six decades what has become of one of the world's last communist governments.

Thursday's session was held on the 57th anniversary of Cuba's 1961 defeat of a CIA-backed Cuban exile invasion at the Bay of Pigs, a victory that Havana celebrates as a symbol of its resistance to "imperialist" pressure for change from Washington. Diaz-Canel, 57, said Castro would remain the leader of the revolution and would be involved in major decisions.

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The Russian president "has expressed his confidence that Castro will continue to facilitate strategic partnership between the two countries as head of the Communist Party of Cuba", the press service added. "Cuba needs him, providing ideas and proposals for the revolutionary cause, orienting and alerting us about any error or deficiency, teaching us, and always ready to confront imperialism".

"From that point on, I will be just another soldier defending this revolution", Mr Castro said.

It's the first time in almost six decades that Cuba is being led by a man not named Castro.

But, steps towards a normalization of ties have been severely curtailed since Donald Trump arrived in the White House past year.

Diaz-Canel gained prominence in central Villa Clara province as the top Communist Party official, a post equivalent to governor.

But Cuba watchers and domestic analysts say he will favor continuity over change in the early days of his presidency - and could hit some stumbling blocks along the way.

He also said that there was "no room in Cuba for those who strive for the restoration of capitalism".


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