Cuban leader Raul Castro reelected to second term

2013-02-25 00:56:13 GMT2013-02-25 08:56:13(Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

HAVANA, Feb. 24 (Xinhua) -- Cuba's National Assembly of People' s Power Sunday reelected Cuban leader Raul Castro Ruz to a second five-year term.

The 612-member assembly elected Castro, who turns 82 in June, as president of the State Council.

"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) said.

Diaz-Canel replaces Jose Ramon Machado Ventura, who will serve as one of five vice presidents.

Diaz-Canel, 52, served previously as First Secretary of the Cuban Communist Party (CCP) for the central province of Villa Clara and the eastern province of Holguin, as well as Minister of Higher Education.

Joining Machado Ventura as a vice president will be another stalwart of the Cuban Revolution, Commander Ramiro Valdes.

Cuba's outgoing Vice President of the State Council Esteban Lazo was elected president of the National Assembly.

Lazo, a member of the Politburo of the Cuban Communist Party ( CCP) since 1985, replaces Ricardo Alarcon de Quesada, 75, who has led the assembly since 1993.

Lazo, who turns 69 on Tuesday and is an economist by training, is considered part of the second generation of Cuban revolutionary leaders. The first group comprises the insurgents led by Fidel Castro who ousted dictator Fulgencio Batista in 1959.

The inaugural session of the 2013-2018 legislature was attended by both Raul Castro and his predecessor Fidel Castro, 86, who retired in 2006 for health reasons, but was elected a deputy for Cuba's second-largest city Santiago de Cuba in general elections Feb. 3.

Raul Castro's second term is also expected to be his last, since he recently spearheaded a law that established term limits.

Since officially taking office as president in 2008, Raul Castro has introduced a series of reforms to modernize the country 's aging socialist model, including limited private enterprise, easing travel restrictions and allowing the sale or exchange of private property.

Castro, who turns 82 in June, indicated last Friday that he was considering retirement.

"I'm going to turn 82, I have a right to retire already," Castro told reporters at a public event marking the visit of Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.

The new 31-member State Council has 17 new members, and includes 13 women and 12 Afro-Cubans. Their average age is 57.

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