Cuban assembly picks new president

National assembly holds closed session in Havana to choose Fidel Castro's successor.

    Who succeeds Fidel Castro has been a subject of speculation [AFP]


    Raul Castro is the lone communist candidate proposed by Cuba's national assembly to succeed Fidel Castro, his ailing brother, as the next head of state, news agencies report.


    Jose Ramon Machado Ventura, another "old guard" Cuban leader, was proposed for the vice-president's position by the assembly on Sunday, legislators said.


    News that the two men had been put forward as candidates in the uncontested one-party balloting was broken to reporters on the sidelines of the meeting in Havana.


    The meeting of the 614-member assembly is charged with selecting the 31-member council of state, the president and other posts.


    Fidel Castro announced on Tuesday that he was stepping down as president of Cuba, after leading the country for almost 50 years.  

    Pragmatic image


    Raul is widely perceived by Cubans to be pragmatic and capable of implementing new measures which might alleviate some of the economic woes affecting Cubans, while keeping the country on a communist track.


    In the last year, Raul has encouraged people to meet in private town hall meetings to debate the issues bothering them: low wages, decrepit housing, a strained transport network and government corruption.


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    Hours before the national assembly session began, Cubans went about their lives, strolling along the "malecon" or boardwalk with their children or sitting on the doorsteps of their homes in Old Havana.


    Earlier, reporting from Havana, Al Jazeera's Mariana Sanchez said there were no signs a new era was about to begin on the Caribbean island.


    Watching the ocean waves, a group of young Cubans had mixed views about their country's future.


    Jorge Fernandez said Raul will implement reforms.


    "Now with Raul things are going to change because he has an iron fist," he told Al Jazeera.




    Marilyn Gonzalez had a different view. She's confident Raul will continue with the ideals Fidel Castro set for the communist island.


    "Everything will be okay. We will accept the next president and agree to his ideas without Fidel," she told Al Jazeera.


    Many Cubans like Solange Columbie are sad that 'Commander Fidel' will not be in charge. Seventy per cent of Cubans have only known him as their leader.


    "I think it's difficult to accept Fidel's resignation because from now on with a new president we don't know how things are going to be or what will happen next," Columbie told Al Jazeera.


    Carlos Lage, a second-tier vice-president, has been spoken of as favourite for the role of first vice-president.


    For the first time the position will not go to a Castro. Lage is the person who managed the Cuban economy when the Soviet Union collapsed.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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