Raul Castro to step down as Cuba's president in April 2018: official

Cuban President Raul Castro will step down in April after an election to choose his successor.

He was supposed to resign in February but Cuba's National Assembly today voted to push back the election due to disruption caused by hurricane Irma in September.  

The vote will now take place on April 19 after which Castro, 86, will hand over power to the president-elect.

Castro, who officially replaced his ailing brother Fidel as president in 2008, has repeatedly said senior leaders should hold office for no more than two five-year terms.

'Although we kept on trying to promote young people to senior positions, life proved that we did not always make the best choice,' Castro said at a Communist Party Congress in 2011.

'We are faced with the consequences of not having a reserve of well-trained replacements... It's really embarrassing that we have not solved this problem in more than half a century.' 

The 2011 party summit adopted a more than 300-point plan aimed at updating Cuba's Soviet-style economic system, designed to transform it from one based on collective production and consumption to one where individual effort and reward play a far more important role.

Across-the-board subsidies are being replaced by a comprehensive tax code and targeted welfare.

Castro has encouraged small businesses and cooperatives in retail services, farming, minor manufacturing and retail, and given more autonomy to state companies which still dominate the economy.

The party plan also includes an opening to more foreign investment.

At the same time, Cuba continues to face a US administration bent on restoring democracy and capitalism to the island and questions about the future largess of oil rich Venezuela with strategic ally Hugo Chavez battling cancer.

The Castro brothers and their generation of leaders have ruled Cuba since they swept down from the mountains in the 1959 revolution.


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