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Raul Castro Re-elected Cuba's President


Cuba's National Assembly on Sunday re-elected President Raul Castro for a second five-year term in office, and selected Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez as his first vice-president.

"The National Assembly of People's Power today approved, in this capital, Army General Raul Castro Ruz as president of the Council of State, and elected Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez, as its first vice president," Cuba's state-run National Information Agency (AIN) reported Sunday.

Following his election to the top post, Raul Castro, who turns 82 in June, said he would step down once his second term in office ends in 2018. Incidentally, he had earlier called for setting age limits for political posts, and limiting the terms of all public offices, including presidency, to two.

"I was not chosen to be president to restore capitalism to Cuba. I was elected to defend, maintain and continue to perfect socialism, not destroy it," Raul Castro told the Assembly after his re-election.

Since assuming power in 2008, Raul Castro has launched widespread economic reforms in Cuba, under which ordinary Cubans were given the rights to own small businesses and to buy and sell cars. He has also freed some of the detained dissidents as demanded by the international community, and recently relaxed restrictions on Cuban citizens traveling abroad.

His brother and former Cuban leader, Fidel Castro, was present at Sunday's Assembly session. The last time Fidel, who was Prime Minister from 1959 to 1976 and President from 1976 to 2008, was seen in public was when he voted in the parliamentary elections held earlier this month. Fidel had ceded power to his brother Raul in February 2008, following an emergency stomach surgery in July 2006. He
has made very few public appearances since then.

Diaz-Canel, who is widely seen as Raul Catro's successor in the single-party communist state, is a qualified electrical engineer and a former education minister. The 52-year-old has also served as First Secretary of the Cuban Communist Party (CCP) for the central province of Villa Clara and the eastern province of Holguin.

To date, Cuba, under Castro brothers, has survived more than four decades of US sanctions. Despite several political and economic reforms initiated by Raul Castro after he assumed power from his brother Fidel in February 2008, Cuba still remains a one-party state and one of Communism's last remaining outposts.

Cuba has been the target of an economic and trade embargo imposed by the U.S. since 1962. But in 2009, President Barack Obama lifted some travel restrictions imposed on Cuban-Americans, allowing them to visit relatives in that country and remit money.

Obama, however, retained the 47-year-old U.S. trade embargo on Cuba, indicating that it would not be lifted until the island-nation took notable steps toward democracy, including the release of remaining political dissidents currently jailed in the communist nation.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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