Cuba selects Fidel Castro successor
Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Agence France-Presse . Havana

Cuba's National Assembly met Sunday to pick a successor to Fidel Castro after almost 50 years in power, with his brother Raul well placed to take the helm in a historic power shift and keep Cuba locked on the communist path.

The assembly began meeting in its landmark session at 1500 GMT, with Raul Castro looking on. In defiance of US-led calls for democratic change, Fidel Castro ruled out any betrayal of the Cuban revolution in the days leading up to the vote, which will trigger some political readjustments even as the transition bears the exiting leader's imprint.

'The end of one era is not the same thing as the beginning of an unsustainable system,' he wrote in an editorial in official media on Friday. The only place in need of transformation was the United States, he said, arguing that 'Cuba had changed some time ago, and will continue on its dialectical path.'

Saturday, Castro wrote in another editorial that he was eagerly awaiting a 'transcendental decision' of the National Assembly, and took a potshot at the US-based Organisation of American States, which does not allow Cuba to be a member due to its lack of democracy. Castro, who still heads the island's Communist Party, called the grouping a 'dumpster.'

In an announcement on Tuesday that immediately became a milestone in Cuba's revolution, the frail, 81-year-old icon quashed speculation that he would retake the country's helm he ceded 'temporarily' to Raul, now 76, on July 31, 2006, shortly after he underwent surgery.

The decision paved the way for the recently elected Assembly to most likely designate Raul Castro to head the 31-member Council of State for the next five years and officially fill his brother's shoes as president.

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