MEXICO CITY – In one of the strongest portents yet of a post-Castro Cuba, President Raul Castro said Sunday his newly granted five-year term would be his last, and he took on a relatively young vice president who presumably could succeed him.
It was the first time a deadline had been put on the Castro era, which saw the island ruled by first Fidel and then Raul Castro for more than half a century since the 1959 revolution ousted an abusive, U.S.-backed regime.
Raul Castro was ratified as president for his second five-year term during a meeting of the Cuban parliament, which only convenes rarely to decide such matters. The congress also named Miguel Diaz-Canel, an engineer and former education official with an increasingly high profile, as Castro’s first vice president.
Castro is 81. Diaz-Canel is 52. Castro and other top Cuban officials, until now, had regularly been criticized for failing to promote younger future leaders, favoring instead older revolution-era cronies in senior positions in the Communist-led government.
Raul’s older brother Fidel, the historic leader of the Cuban revolution and the island nation’s commander for decades, stepped down in 2006 because of a near-fatal illness, and Raul formally assumed power in 2008.
Raul Castro has shown a pragmatic side, ordering important economic reforms that allowed a measure of free enterprise and the selling and buying of private property, as well as, this year, the lifting of long-standing restrictions on travel by Cuban citizens.
Castro also said he would propose term limits and retirement ages for the president and other top officials.